By Adv. Jatin Ramaiya
The Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, North Goa, recently directed Vodafone to pay compensation and costs amounting to Rs 65,000 to Meryn Britto, Saligao, for activating a mobile connection without his knowledge and charging him for the same.
Britto had approached the Vodafone store, Mapusa to purchase a number for his new business. He accordingly selected the number but the number was not activated by the store which told him, “the number is activated only by calling 117 within a few days.”
However after a few weeks Britto started receiving warning messages stating that his credit limit of Rs 9,000 per month is reached and he needs to make payments. Britto said that there was no marked increase in his telephone usage and the message seemed unusual. The credit limit was then increased to Rs 15,000 after which he made payment of Rs 4000 and requested Vodafone to further raise the limit to Rs 30,000. He also approached the Vodafone and demanded an explanation.
The company looked into his account and found that the original number (8698738388) had been activated and somebody had been making numerous phone calls and running up his bill to over Rs 27,000. Britto thought that Vodafone would recognize this case of fraud and implement standard procedures that would involve the police and together they would be able to track down the fraudulent activity, exonerate himself and remove the charges from his bill. However according to Britto that the situation got out of hands and he was accused of running a bill in excess of Rs27,000.
Investigations by Vodafone revealed that the application forms were forged with his signature and the phone calls were linked to Nepal. The whole situation had the potential to involve criminals or even terrorist organizations. Britto asked for all the fraudulent charges removed from his bill and his account rectified and he be absolved from any iability to Vodafone. Britto further sought compensation of Rs eight lakhs for suffering stress and mental anguish and the costs of the proceedings.
Vodafone appeared before the Forum and resisted the complaint. They admitted that Britto was wrongly charged and further admitted that it was their own fault. However, they claimed that Britto did not exercise reasonable care and caution and ought to have destroyed the old number.
Vodafone waived off the Rs 26,800 bill and admitted to deficiency in service. They asked for the complaint be dismissed.
After hearing both parties, the Bench, observed that, due to wrong billing the complainant had to suffer, had to go through lot of pain and suffering and still does not know who was using the disputed number and what actions the company has taken. This is case of gross deficiency in service and proven negligence by the opposing party. They did not exercise reasonable care and did not even bother to check the disputed number.
Furthermore, the members of the Forum observed that, the complainant was under bonafide impression that the disputed number would not be activated without calling 117. “Definitely the complainant needs to be compensated.”
However, the Forum observed that the compensation claimed is exorbitant and awarded compensation of Rs50,000 and costs of Rs15,000 as reasonable, fair and proper.