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COLLECTION agents of Bharti Airtel allegedly called up friends of a defaulting customer and told them that he had asked them to pay the bills on his behalf.
Dustin Silgardo,a 27-year-old media professional,has alleged that several of his friends in Mumbai and Bangalore received such calls over the past four months. Bharti Airtel has denied the allegations. Dustin said he would move a consumer court.
Silgardo,who moved to Mumbai from Bangalore last year,claims he received an unusually large bill of Rs 3,500 in January. My usage was minimal. I went to an Airtel relationship centre on Hill Road but the employees said the systems were down. I wrote an e-mail to a customer care centre in Bangalore and they replied saying they would resolve the issue.On January 13,I discontinued my Airtel connection, he said adding,I wanted to clear the accounts and then take the matter up with the company. I even offered to pay in cash but they refused large cash payments.
In the meantime,he says, a friend received the first call from the collection agency. There are six-seven persons whom I call frequently. They have no right to call them and lie to them, he said.
Two weeks later,Silgardo said he received an email from Airtel that the due amount was now Rs 6,000. They had charged me for February as well even after I had discontinued service. I had been overcharged in January but was willing to pay the outstanding amount, he said.
A further exchange of emails with customer care in April and May,after his friends told him about the calls,did not resolve the issue. In his latest email on May 22,Silgardo wrote to Airtel complaining about receiving threatening messages from collection agents.
They said that they were filing a case in a Bangalore court. When I told them I was in touch with the corporate communications department of the company and was awaiting a response,they alleged I was evading paying my bills, he said.
Bharti Airtel said that it was looking into the matter but indicated that Silgardo had a history of defaulting on payments. He has been late in his payments since September last year. When he was in Bangalore,he changed his address a few times but did not inform us. We could not send him his bills. He also does not answer his phone when we call. But it appears he is unhappy with his experience at the Airtel Relationship Centre and we will look at how to make it better. Our centre in Bangalore will speak to him about waiving off the amount if need be. But it is not true that collection agents called any of his friends. Our collection agencies are not allowed to do that. The only time they contacted his family is when they visited the home of his grandmother in Bangalore,but he wasnt there, said an Airtel spokesperson.
Silgardos friends,however,insist that they received the calls. On May 21,I got a call from a collection agent from Bangalore. He said he couldnt get through to Dustin and asked me to tell him to pay his bill, said his colleague Jaideep Dave.
The most recent call was made four days ago to Silgardos friend Dipti Khera in Bangalore. The caller said that Dustin had asked me to pay his bill for him. I was sure he wouldnt ask me to do that and spoke sternly. The collection agent hasnt called again, she said.
In March I got a call from a person who identified himself as an Airtel collection agent. He said Dustin had not paid his bills and had asked me to do so. I informed him immediately, said Suvarna Patil of Mumbai.