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Saturday, January 09, 2016

The curious case of Airtel 4G(only) recharge [Updated]

I have an airtel prepaid SIM and recently I was looking for a data pack for this sim. As I was browsing through airtel.in for options, I spotted a 4G data pack, Rs 263 for 1GB, 28 days. Because my SIM and phone supports 4G, I purchased it.

My issues started as I started using the data. It was deducting money from my main balance for data usage. I called 198 to log a complaint, a complaint was registered and reference number given.
After a day, someone from Airtel called and explained that I was charged because my phone setting for the prepaid SIM was set to use 2G network and that is why the 4G recharge was not applying. When I checked I realized that this was true, so I changed SIM settings to 4G, restarted the phone and thought everything will be fine now.

But most of the time when I connect to internet, balance was still going down from main balance and not 4G recharge.

I called to complain again. I had my complaint number ready. But luckily support staff had complaint number in my profile and I didn’t have to repeat the whole story again. When I explained my current situation that I am being charged even after changing phone settings to use 4G, she gave below explanation “this particular recharge will apply only when network is in 4G. If network drops to 3G or 2G due to non-availability of 4G, the data pack doesn’t apply. You will be charged separately for 3G usage”.

How will I know 4G is available now unless I enable the data? As an end user I can’t keep monitoring if network is in 4G or has suddenly dropped to 3G and then rush to de-activate data. So this whole plan looks flawed.

This is some stupid policy of Airtel. If I pay for 2G and I am charged for 4G that is understandable. But the opposite seems stupid. It is like you have paid for a first class ticket but still have to pay extra to fly in economy, or like saying BMTC’s daily pass for Volvo bus can’t be used in normal buses.

The least Airtel should do is provide a warning message when people try to go for this recharge and proceed only after user understands and accepts that they will be charged separately for 2G/3G usage.

I can't think of a scenario where customers might want to buy a pure 4G pack and happily pay extra for 2G/3G- works fine if network is offering 4G all the time. But in most cities 4G network is never guaranteed 100%. Signal switches to 3G if congestion is high or if area doesn't have 4G coverage.

But I noted a few good things in the process:
  • Getting hold of a human being to talk to in Airtel customer care wasn’t difficult. Within a minute or two I could navigate the stupid voice menu of IVR and get to a customer care executive.
  • I didn’t have to repeat my story again when I called second time. 

I was trying to take a screenshot for this post of the recharge option- but now it is removed (and 1GB 28 days 3G recharge costs Rs 265 now (was Rs 258 or something few days ago). Spoke to Customer Care again and was told that listing that plan was an accidental mistake and they are working to fix this and recharge will be converted back to 3G. So I need to wait for 48 hours now for this to get resolved (hopefully)

Update: After a week, Airtel has credited Rs 250 to my main balance (after deducting Rs 13 in the name of tax) and then has done a 1 GB data recharge for 25 days after deducting Rs 255 days. (5 Rs taken from main balance and 250 from refund, while I had paid Rs 263 already for 1GB data)
In this whole deal, I was originally supposed to get 1GB 4G data for Rs 263 and for 28 days. But I lost 3 days of validity, 13 Rs for tax, another 5 Rs from main balance and some Rs 20-30 that was deducted from main balance during initial data usage- all in all I lost about 50 Rs worth money, 3 days validity and about 2 hours of my precious time dealing with Airtel customer care.

When I had recharged for Rs 263 for data, it already factored tax. Sending this money to main balance as Rs 250 after tax is like double tax. If they had returned Rs 263 to my credit card, I could have done data recharge again for 28 days and for Rs 255, leaving me with few rupees. No compensation for my time wasted and no refund of main balance that was deducted for data while it was supposed to deduct from data recharge.

I called and complained again during a tea break- after 9 minutes of holding, I was explained that “usually we give only Rs 221 as credit after tax, but in your case we made special consideration and credited Rs 250”. I tried explaining above numbers but the conversation was not going anywhere, so in the interest of my time I had to cut the call. To their credit, someone from customer care did call back, but explained the same thing again- My 15 min break time was over and I had to get back to work, I couldn’t afford to spend time talking with them when they couldn’t understand the nett loss I suffered due to Airtel’s 4G plan.

Also I have to factor the Rs 197 additional top up I had to do as I wanted to use net while this complaint was getting addressed)

Lesson learnt:
1)    If you see some data recharge mentioning 4G, then don’t touch it. It will be applicable only if network is in 4G. If network shifts to 2G/3G, your main balance will drain in minutes
2)    If there is a dispute, simply ask for refund. The business of crediting the amount to main balance is tricky as it may involve deduction in the name of tax
3)    Airtel customer care has improved a bit- there is a call back mechanism, my complaints are stored against the number so I don’t have to explain again and again. But fundamental problems remain- don’t expect any compensation for the inconvenience/loss you suffer for Airtel’s mistake or time and effort spent in rectifying it. You should be lucky if you can get a good portion of money back.

I had a similar experience with SingTel last year- read it here.

Similar posts: Airtel 4G review * How your prepaid SIM can help you abroad *

22 comments :

Raveesh Kumar said...

Typical of Airtel!

When they introduced Airtel 4G, 3 years ago, 4G router would switch between 2G/3G/4G depending on availability. That was the biggest advantage I used to have - a portable internet device which I could use in tier II cities or even in villages without difficulty. But now I hear, it works only if it is 4G. Pathetic!

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Raveesh. Yes, I have read your post on AIrtel...

Arun Prasadh said...

I have heard this issue many times now with Airtel. Yes 4g is not available in all part of the cities and hard to track.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Arun for confirming others have also faced same issue

Dhananjay said...

Everything is fine, you are talking about 4G SIM and phone, but why you posted 4G Hotspot dongle picture?

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Dhananjay- couldn't find a more relevant image. Btb I can use prepaid SIM in that device too..

yesupadam said...

This is not stupid policy of AIRTEL . they are just exploring new way of income generation by Cheating Customers. AIRTEL is not fair in this. Even after paying for 4G we have to worry about dropping network to 3G or 2G... Balance will be deducted from main balance.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

hmm

Anonymous said...

Motherfucking airtel... I wish i could go to there customer care office with a rifle. Bastards...
Been more Than a month still did not receive the money back that was not deducted but recharge was unsuccessful. I have atleast 12 reference number.. Should i take those in my ass.. Or should i give them in your father...

ravi c said...

This is what exactly happening to me too. All we need to have sufficient main balance to be deducted by them in any manner. One interesting thing is after I sent all screenshots also they lied no deduction. I have 4G n 3G packs. but still deducting from main balance. after 3g pack expired 4g not into effect even though only select 4G pack. This is completely unfair manner. It's simply robbing the customer.

Thanks & Regards
RAVI PRAKASH

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Ravi c- thanks for sharing your experience. Yes, their rules are hard to understand and always keeps changing to suite them. Recently they have introduced a prepaid international roaming monthly rental- as soon as you switch on the phone 90 Rs is gone. I was charged Rs 150 further, when there was no calls made or received, but they insist there was a call. Solution is never to keep huge balance.

Imti said...

Im using 4g handset and airtel 4g sim..it was awesome for a few months. Recently, im facing a new problem (setting aside the fact im not getting 4g services anymore). Problem is, whenever i visit (say) facebook and click on some external link, im directed to airtel portal. Not only that, even my internet banking services, when i go for the recharge option, the page gets directed to airtel portal. This is really frustrating. Not yet contacted customer care but just wanted to know if you have faced such problems.

Imti said...

I don't if its relevant of 4g network or not but im facing a new problem (setting aside the one that im not getting 4g services anymore). Problem is, whenever i visit a website or app like facebook, and i click on an external link, im directed to airtel portal. Not only that.. my net banking service, when i go for the recharge option, im only directed to their portal. Can anyone please tell me what kind of nonsense is that... yet to contact customer care but just want to know if this is common problem or not.

Imti said...

Im using 4g handset and airtel 4g sim..it was awesome for a few months. Recently, im facing a new problem (setting aside the fact im not getting 4g services anymore). Problem is, whenever i visit (say) facebook and click on some external link, im directed to airtel portal. Not only that, even my internet banking services, when i go for the recharge option, the page gets directed to airtel portal. This is really frustrating. Not yet contacted customer care but just wanted to know if you have faced such problems.

Mehul Ahlawat said...

Faced the same issue. Luckily got hold of some understanding fellow at customer care and found out that we can actually stop data usage when there's no Internet Pack active according to TRAI since September 2015. Just send "STOP" to 1925. Does the trick.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Mehul- Thanks. Didn't work when I tried last time. Will try again

@Imti Sounds strange- usually upon successful recharge it is common to be taken to airtel's page first time.. but if happening all the time sounds strange

Swapnil Gabhale said...

Same has happened to me just today!charged for internet usage from main account even after i had a 1gb 4g data pack applied.and i was suggested to send 'STOP' to 1925 to stop airtel charging me from my main account when am not in 4g coverage they stop my internet connection until i come back in 4g range.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Swapnil- thanks for sharing your experience. Yes, that STOP msg is much needed

Rahul Joshi said...

Face same issue..I recharge with 263 1 GB 3g and 1 GB 4 data pack...i selected in mobile 4G/3G/2G network..Visit a palce whre 4 g not available balance deduct from 3g and 1 day 3g balance end but when again come to 4G network surfing 4G net but i dont know suddenly network switch to 3g in between so 40 Rs deduct from my main balance..When i called to customer care they don't have any answer of this.. i also note 1 things is that after launching 4g service 3G service is down by operator...

Omkar Keshri said...

If you don't want your main balance to be deducted after net pack is over. Just send 'STOP' to 1925. Thereafter you will not be charged from main balance for data usages.

Anonymous said...

U can use 4g switcher app from Google play store for continues 4g mood. This works fine on my lenovo a6000 shot. But u can't check the balance in 4g mood I suggest use MY AIRTEL app.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks for your inputs people. Once I tried that stop msg, didn't work. Will give one more try later