Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Reliance Net Connect(?) - The joke of the century...

When I landed at the Kolkata airport, a welcome new message greeted my eyes. Apparently, Reliance Communications company (a part of the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani business empire) came up with a modem - in both USB and PCMCIA format for laptops - that can be used to wirelessly connect to the Internet for browsing. They called it Reliance NetConnect. I was overjoyed, because I though I would not have to rely upon the tired, old dial-up connection using the phone cord from the land-line phone at our house, as I had to during my previous visits.

So at the first opportunity, I reached the nearby Reliance Communications outlet, and purchased the modem and a connection, for a total of about three thousand rupees. The deal seemed reasonable; they said that I would have to pay one month's rental, and they would refund half the cost of the modem when I return it at the end of the month prior to my departure for the US. An obliging employee from the outlet came to my house, and installed the modem, and told me to restart my computer in about 15 minutes for everything to start working.

That was the beginning of the nightmare.

It did not work right from day 1. Either it would not get a signal, or it would not connect to the net at any speed, so that not a single webpage would actually load. In the next few days, I placed at least five calls to the customer service. Who knew that Reliance Communications had such an absolutely worthless, incompetent and downright rude customer service? One agent told me I was lying, that there was no problem at all. Four other agents that actually listened to my problem kept saying (1) there is a nation-wide problem with Reliance Data Network, which will be resolved soon, (2) there is a local problem with the signal from the tower, which will be resolved soon, and (3) would I kindly give it (variously) 15 minutes/1hr/two hours/1 day for them to resolve the issue. I had no choice, and I waited. One of the last agents opened a case with a number for my complaint. This was probably the worst customer service that I had ever received from a communications (allegedly?) company - they were rude, arrogant and clueless!

Nothing happened. Desperate at this point, I started haunting the outlet. Despite having purchased the modem and the service, I was still either spending money at local cyber-cafes, or trying to make do with the very-slow dial up from home, and the Reliance people were charging me rental for every single day for a non-functional equipment. The same individuals at the outlet who were politeness personified and all smiles when I had first purchased the equipment now started showing their real colors. They would either ignore me or talk rudely to me. Eventually, they contacted their systems engineer who scheduled a visit to my house.

Upon his arrival, he tinkered with my laptop, essentially repeating the same steps as I had already tried, but it did not work. He wanted me to have the modem sent to the service center. I took the modem to the outlet. After a lot of shuffling of feet and cross-checking with the systems engineer, they told me to leave the modem with them; not sure of their intentions, I asked them to give me in writing that they received the modem on that date for the purpose of testing the hardware. Finally, about three weeks after I had initially purchased the modem, they informed me that the modem was found to be faulty at their service center. They said that my only option was to take a replacement for the modem and use it.

By this time, I was fed up to the gills with their antics. So I decided to terminate the connection and return the equipment to them, asking for a refund. That opened an entirely different can of worms! They hemmed and hawed about how difficult it is to terminate a connection, they have to send in a termination request, but the actual termination is done on Reliance Communication's end, which may take any time up to two months. I stood behind them and breathed down their neck until they put in the termination request. Not having too many choices, they eventually refunded my most of my money, after taking out six hundred and fifty rupees as activation charge and first month's rental.

I saw it as cutting my loss. I took the reduced amount. And I am going to fight with Reliance for those six hundred and fifty of my bloody hard-earned rupees. I have kept photocopies of all the documents, even the stuff that the outlet gave me handwritten on their letterhead (which I insisted upon). Let's see where that goes. Frankly, even if it sounds clich├ęd, it is not the money, but the principle. I object to being fleeced in this manner.

Caveat emptor!!

Update: Ever since I returned to the US, my mom started receiving phone calls from Reliance about an unpaid monthy rental bill. I gave my mom the details of the case, and she took them to the outlet. Apparently, some arrangement has been reached at; I shall know more about it by Wednesday.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

shudhu dekhi rant koro aajkaal. Grrrr....

Mon Mar 24, 11:02:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Roddur said...

The best way to refer this case is to file a suit against the company at district consumer forum. I have found DCFs are very prompt in taking actions. .


Mon Mar 24, 11:11:00 PM EDT  
Blogger bluelaser said...

I know what you mean. I had a similar problem with MTNL's "broadband" connection in my Delhi house. It costs Rs. 600 monthly for a 10Mbps connection. However, the sly MTNL people have put one whole society (approx. 5 buildings x 8 floor x 4 apartments = 160 apartments) on one line! Which means there is approx. a 1 in 160 chance of ever getting a connection! The customer service was equally clueless/ rude/ incompetent in every aspect of this revelation.

Unless someone drags these guys to court, I don't see the situation changing. The US system (I have Time Warner Cable), although expensive, seems light years ahead in terms of speed and responsiveness. Almost worth the $$$ per month.

Mon Mar 24, 11:20:00 PM EDT  
Blogger qbrad said...

So were your customer service people named Bob and Lauren with fake Texan accents?
Or did they forgo the charade and actually speak in Hindi -- admitting that they were local?

(sorry for the double post... commented on the wrong entry)

Tue Mar 25, 08:27:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Koli-Kotha said...

Its a racket they get away with because the ordinary people looking for home connections have little clue how fast an internet connection can actually be. Whatever the company allows, it gets away with.

Wed Mar 26, 10:54:00 AM EDT  

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