Delhi consumer court upholds ₹5 lakh penalty on Airtel for harassing customer

Chambers of Ishaan Garg

Ch. No. 217, Western Wing, District & Sessions Court, Tis Hazari, New Delhi, Delhi 110054

+91 8851742417, +91 8800386163

The customer complained of indiscriminate phone calls from Airtel and internet disconnection over pending dues, despite providing confirmation that the amount had already been paid.

The Delhi State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (SCDRC) recently upheld a ₹5 lakh penalty imposed on Airtel for harassing a customer with phone calls and disconnecting his services over unpaid dues, despite the amount having been duly paid [Bharti Airtel Limited V. Jasmeet Singh Puri (Deceased)].

coram of State Commission President Dr. Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal and Judicial Member Pinki observed that Airtel was not only negligent in providing its services but had also used its position to harass their client.

It, therefore, upheld the fine imposed on Airtel by a district consumer forum on September 4, 2014, for deficiency of service.

It is, therefore, clear that the Appellant (Airtel) failed to provide adequate service to the Respondent no.1, which resulted in the Respondent suffering consequences. As a result, the deficiency on the part of the Appellant stands proved. Accordingly, we do not find any infirmity in the judgment of the District Commission," the Delhi SCDRC noted in its July 1 order.

The customer had purchased internet and landline services from Airtel. In March 2013, the customer handed over a cheque to pay the amount of ₹4,995 due for these services.

However, Airtel claimed that this cheque was dishonoured for lack of sufficient funds and began to constantly call the customer over this issue.

The client asked Airtel's representatives to recheck the status with the bank, and later also confirmed through bank statements that the amount had been credited to Airtel's account.

However, Airtel failed to acknowledge the receipt of payment from the client and also discontinued his internet services in May 2013 before sending him a legal notice demanding a payment of ₹7,549.

Aggrieved by Airtel's attitude, the customer filed a consumer complaint before the district consumer disputes redressal forum.

The customer told the district forum that despite informing Airtel that the payment had been duly credited, this information fell on deaf ears and he continued to face indiscriminate phone calls and emails from Airtel's representatives.

In September 2014, the district forum concluded that Airtel's conduct was crass, bizarre and amounted to motivated misconduct. It, therefore, ordered Airtel to pay the customer ₹5 lakhs as punitive compensation. Of this amount, ₹3 lakhs was to be paid to the customer, while the remaining ₹2 lakhs was to be paid to the State Consumer Welfare Fund.

Airtel challenged this order before the State Commission, which dismissed the appeal on July 1.

The State Commission found that Airtel had neither provided any evidence showing that they made any inquiry into the customer's complaints and replies nor had they registered any complaint regarding the same. Additionally, Airtel failed to take any concrete step to stop calling the customer, even after receiving complaints about it from him, the Commission noted.

Therefore, it dismissed Airtel's appeal.