calling customer care is not free


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Next time, you make a call to your cell operators’ customer care number, and are made to wait endlessly for the executive at the other end to answer your query, don’t hang on, thinking it to be a toll free call. At least two of the cellular operators in the region, Idea Cellular and Vodafone, have now started billing their customers for calling on their customer care number. It is learnt that both Idea Cellular and Vodafone have begun charging its customers at the rate of Rs 0.50 per three minute, for making calls on its customer care numbers (98140-12345 and 111 respectively). These charges are being levied for the past one week. Interestingly, subscribers of both cellular operators claim that they have not been informed about the calls now being charged. While Idea has 30.81 lakh subscribers in the Punjab circle, Vodafone has 29.23 lakh customers in this circle.
Officials in the customer care centre of the two companies contended that the customers had not been informed, but said the information was being provided to all those people who had called on the ‘helpline’ number. They also said those subscribers having a corporate connection were not being charged for calls to customer care service.
Though the other cellular operators in the Punjab circle- Airtel, Tata Telecom, Reliance and BSNL have not yet started charging their customers for this service, sources say that at least two of the companies are mulling imposing a minimal charge to customers.
When contacted, executives at the Idea Cellular service informed TNS that though calls to the customer care number - 98140-12345, were now charged, they had introduced another toll free service, which could be availed by dialing 198. However, customers can only register their complaints on this number. They cannot know about their bill, tariff or any other issue related to the cellular service.
Taking up the issue on behalf of the customers, Randhir Verma, president of Chandigarh and Punjab Telecom Subscribers Association, said he would write to TRAI against these companies.