Bharti Airtel & the potential 1 rupee scam & fraud that could run into millions

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I have an airtel connection and there has been several instances of ‘unwanted & unasked for’ services that have been activated on my mobile phone and 1 rupee of 2 rupees deducted without notice. This gives rise to several questions on the ethics of airtel & the potential fraud /scam that might be.

Here is an example of an SMS i received which showed an unwanted/unasked for service being activated on my mobile and 1 rupee being deducted.  Some time later in the evening, I again get an SMS, this time for 2 rupees deducted this time around. I then call airtel where I am charged 50 paise to speak to the agent to talk about this issue.

When I talk to the agent, she tried brushing this under the carpet and said that i can cancel this if I want. She had no answer to why & how this service was started in the first place. I could clearly make out that the agent would have been getting several calls like that as she did not seem surprised at all and neither did offer any insight or intention to look into why such service was started without subscribers permission. She did not even offer regrets that this has been done and forget about offering refund and credit of the amount back.

Now below could be a very realistic situation:

This kind of a micro 1 rupee scams being played on millions of airtel subscribers and potential fraud being committed by cheating customers.

The reason I suspect this is that:

  • Many people may just ignore this considering that this is just 1 rupee thing.
  • Many people may stop this service and forget about this and not escalate this to airtel thinking why waste time on 1 rupee
  • Many people not even coming to realize that such 1 rupee amounts are being deducted from their accounts

Anyone has idea of where this could be escalated and brought to notice for investigation.

It is really painful that a company run by Mr Sunil Mittal, who espouses to be the torch bearer of corporate ethics operates in this manner of cheating the customer — however the small the amount maybe. to notice. Anyone else facing such issues?

This is a breach of trust and trust once lost in a brand, by such behavior, is lost forever.

EDIT: A quick Google Search on this subject showed that this is indeed an issue voiced by many of the customers on various forums on the internet


Ethics in the Internet Era…

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I wonder why organizations don’t consider IP/Copyright violations as an Ethical violation – and here I do not mean IP/Copyright violation of the organizational materials itself, but IP/Copyright violations of other peoples resources.

Lets take something closer to the industry we work in.  Lets talk about MP3 songs.  Many of us listen to these MP3 songs while at work and have them on our work stations – either copied from friends, downloaded from Internet or from CD’s etc. If we haven’t paid for these songs or got permission to play these songs then I personally think that this is an IP/Copyright violation and we are denying the artist who wrote that song his due by this act – just as we deny the tax man his due by forging LTA claims. Now this kind of act does not impact the organizations top line/bottom line or directly impact any governmental tax violations. However it is a violation nevertheless. Is this ethical violation any different from LTA claim violation? Why do we overlook ethical violations concerning IP so easily?

It is not just at work that such IP violations happen.. Most of the time they happen in our personal life – outside of our work environment and it is our learnings from those personal experiences that make us go soft on IP violations in work place.

At most popular places in India you will find books being sold on the pavements. You find all kinds of books on all possible subjects and the latest bestsellers selling at a fraction of the cost an original book would have cost. Do we ever wonder why they sell it so cheap? The simple reason is that they are pirated books – books that have been copied and published without publishers/authors permission. We could say that we are just buying the book and are not doing any violation ourselves, but that would mean going into 108 shades of grey.

Lets take one more example.
There are numerous video rental shops all over from where we rent CD’s/DVD’s to watch movies. I bet that almost all of them are pirated and the irony is that we all know that they are pirated. Yet we rent them and knowingly commit IP violations.

I wonder if we tend to give importance to ethics in the ‘transactional events’ that happen in our life? But not much importance to ethics in each moment in life itself? For example filling the joining form of an organization, filing tax returns, submitting travel claims, are some of the transactional events in life. but what about sitting in front of the computer every day and popping up those cool headphones and listening to pirated MP3s? What about strolling along lazily on a weekend and buying those pirated books, or renting that latest blockbuster movie – knowing that it would be a pirated copy.