Despite repeated clarifications from the Central Government, a district consumer forum has dismissed a consumer complaint against Bharti Airtel Ltd and asked the consumer to set up arbitration against the telecom company to resolve a billing dispute of Rs 347.
Arbitration panels are usually set up for heavy matters that typically involve hundreds or thousands of crores of rupees.
A forum consisting of Vandana Mishra, Priti Tripathi and Harpal Singh ruled that since the complainant Umesh Chand had the option of seeking arbitration against Bharti Airtel, they were not open to considering his complaint.
The Ghaziabad District Consumer Forum relied upon the Indian Telegraph Act and a Supreme Court judgment to dismiss the case against Bharti Airtel.
The move has come despite repeated clarifications by the government that Airtel, Vodafone and other companies do not enjoy the immunity from consumer laws enjoyed by the Department of Telecom.
In February this year, the government once again issued a clarification that complaints against telecom operators must be received by consumer courts and should not be dismissed on the basis of the “immunity” argument.
The DoT had clarified that the power of Section 7B cannot be used by private companies as they do not have the power or functions of the telegraph authority. Their actions are entirely covered within the scope of the District Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum.
“The district consumer forums are competent to deal with the disputes between individual telecom consumers and telecom service providers,” the DoT had said.
After the clarification, most consumer courts have started receiving cases against telecom companies. Recently, Airtel was fined Rs 5 lakh by the New Delhi consumer forum in a similar case.
However, the Ghaziabad forum has dismissed the petition. The complainant now has the option of approaching the State Forum against the stand taken by the Ghaziabad forum.
He had alleged that even after doing a final settlement for his broadband connection, Bharti Airtel sent him a bill seeking more money at the end of the month.