51 months for Hutch (Vodafone) to completely close an unneeded mobile phone connection

It was rather an interesting tale of incidents with a short-lived Vodafone mobile phone number that I got only for a few days in November 2004 but opted to surrender it because of the following reasons pertaining to Hutch in those times:

  1. Totally helpless and hapless customer care
  2. Absolutely pathetic network coverage in my area (Medawalkam to Tambaram).

 Now goes the incidents from November 2004 to March 2008. Since I normally jot down the incidents in my diary, I was easily able to pull out the same chronologically. 

24th November 2004: Me and my friend were trying to see if Hutch CUG plan was good since one of the marketing executives were trying to sell some lucrative cost-effective options. Both of us submitted the application forms and got the SIM card too.

But even the same day night, I was totally unable to use this connection near my residence. Even a manual search of available networks didn’t list it. Unable to reach Hutch CustomerCare.
25th November 2004: I checked with Hutch CustomerCare but there was no reliable and responsible reply on that front. Hence temporarily shifted to my Airtel Connection itself.
2nd December 2004: I walked into Hutch Shop at TTK Road and surrendered the SIM Card. The same day evening, one Ms. Sujatha called me to confirm on why do I wanted to close the connection? I told her it was simply unusable. I also made an interim payment of INR 8, as was visible in the statement at Hutch Store, Sir Thyagaraya Road, T. Nagar. I intentionaly routed the payment through credit card so that bank would have an additional record of this transaction because it is a closing transaction.
A week later, Sujatha again called me stating that they had a little orientations of BTS (Base Transciever Stations) changed and realigned near Camp Road, Selayur. She offered me a free replacement SIM Card by sending a representative. When I tried this, it was still of no avail. Now two things were turned false assurances from Hutch CustomerCare:

  1. The free SIM replacement was false (The statement that came around December 12th carried a charge for the same)
  2. The network was still pathetic.

I wrote to Hutch Customer Care and this time addressing their grievances. I could not recall whether they had any Nodal type of post like they have now. They offered to close off the account. I checked with her to settle the account. She asked me to visit the nearest Hutch store. I paid one more visit to Sir Theagaraya Road (Pondy Bazaar) Hutch store again. Since it was a second closure, they took the reasons for closure. I suggested them the following things in the closure form.

  1. Bad and pathetic network coverage in Chennai suburbs
  2. Unreachable CustomerCare
  3. False promises like free SIM replacement but the outstanding reflects charges for the same.
  4. Airtel was providing Roaming without Rentals but Hutch charged a steep rental of INR 25 per month regardless of whether you are in roaming network or not. It is a flat monthly rate charged to your plan.

The store manager accepted the closure request and since the statement was still not generated, he was telling it would be closed and waived since there was no call usage also besides having surrendered the SIM. I double-confirmed with me before I left the store.


February 2009: There was one call from +919884019865 pretending to be an advocate of Vodafone on my residence phone number in a typical vernacular dialect. She was telling the following (translated from Tamil) “There is an outstanding payment dues from Deepak Vasudevan. We have been trying to send letters but no response. I am waiting in Chennai High Court but no response till now.” She was also adding that I have used Vodafone number and made calls during my previous organization. But when challenged with the organization name and Vodafone number alloted, she is unable to reply. Interesting thing was she called from +919884019865 and the number given for callback is 9884002106. And the call came around 7. 25 PM (beyond normal business calling hours) on 4th February 2009. I am still not clear on the following:

  1. How was she working in Chennai High Court campus at 7. 30 PM?
  2. What were the letters and reminder sent to my official correspondence addresses which never came in?
  3. If they could not communicate on my numbers all along for four years, from where on earth, the communication links suddenly got established bolt out of the blue?
  4. She was not able to reply and quantify the ‘previous organization’ term that she was uttering.

When I wrote this to Vodafone Customer Care and Nodal Officer the same day, I got the first reply from Nodal around 20th February. It takes around two to three weeks for the nodal officer to open their mailboxes. In the melee, Vodofone customer care scribbled back a gibberish reply and wanted me to again call that stupid collection executive and get her name, number and my phone number on which she had complained outstanding payment. I just replied them that the executive herself was using a Vodafone number. So the issue is about a Vodafone connection. So it is well within their domain to investigate the issue completely.
I also visited a Vodafone store and got the account number for the mobile number. When I called Hutch Care, the call landed after much difficulty to an executive, who I suspect might be affected with hysteria. He was strongly yelling out ‘You failed my security questions. This mobile phone number which you told is currently a prepaid number. I can not pull out history records for you’. I thought I should have hired a light music group who should have played a background music like ‘Jing Jing Jikki. Jing Jing Jakki’ along with his yelling. I was really amused on the bad quality of Vodafone Care too.


Around 20th February 2009, Sunitha (Chennai Nodal Officer)’s representative ‘Rekha’ called me and she was telling me the following procedure:


  1. She apologized for the false waiver but I needed to pay the outstanding after which in 48 hours, the settlement letter soft copy would be sent across to me.


When I visited Velachery Vodafone Store, it was again one joke. They will not offer a payment reciept too for this payment it seems. Only the collections executive would give it. Some one called Purushottaman/Richard from Vodafone Store (Velachery) called me a day before and confirmed  that I would be given reciept immediately and settlement letter also in the same day evening. But on personal visit, the assurances were otherwise. Interestingly, there was no one called Richard. When I checked against his phone number, he belonged to Vodafone Store ECR.


I wrote back to Nodal stating this issue. After one more two to three days of time, Rekha called me again to clarify and again apologize for the issue. But she still wanted to check back for a resolution. I tried to visit Vodafone Adyar in the melee. Fortunately, they were kind enough to accept the payment and give the reciept too.


Now, the 48 hours promise from Nodal became 72 hours. Interestingly, the same mail conversational thread has 48 hours in page 4 and 72 hours in page 2 (most recent reply). And about last week, I had the settlement letter indicating a full and final settlement letter soft copy was sent to my email address.


During the post-payment and amidst the settlement procedures, I have a few interesting observations on Nodal Officer behavior in Vodafone Care:


  1. They call from a particular number but if we are not able to pick up the call it and when we try to callback, I observed a most vulgar song as Caller Tune being played. But no one picks up. I brought this also to the notice of Rekha and she was telling that the song is randomly chosen. But how come the randomization is same across multiple days.
  2. The nodal number elicits an  ‘Out of Service’ reply after 7 PM.
  3. Also, throughout the procedure whenever, I send a note to Nodal Officer, the auto response carries a message like ‘If you want to update the emailid, write to sunitha@vodafone.com’. I also brought this to the attention of Nodal Officer. I think, they have just copy pasted the same text (Autoreply) across all the mailboxes setup in Vodafone.


I just thought of sharing this bad behavior of supposedly an international telecom company in India and I think it is a signal for us to stay away from such hooligans.