Recently we set out to study email usage at BSNL/MTNL with regard to recording consumer grievances. We felt the need as one of our readers forwarded us an email which had several emails bounced back from BSNL’s email servers when he tried approaching them. Even I had experienced this bouncing issue last year when I tried emailing BSNL officials.
According to TRAI’s guidelines (2012) BSNL claims to have done away with the concept of nodal officer in its corporate website. The ‘new’ two tier redressal mechanism involves appellate authority after normal customer care services.
Pursuant to the TRAI’s new Regulation called the Telecom Consumers Complaint Redressal Regulations, 2012, BSNL has replaced its three-tier Complaint Redressal Mechanism by two-tier system by doing away with Nodal Officer.
However, still in 2014 all the BSNL circle websites have a long list of nodal officers with their email IDs which in most cases were updated in 2013. Now unless a customer is up-to-date with TRAI guidelines, in all probability he/she will attempt to send email(s) to nodal officers listed in various BSNL websites.
What did we do?
On a random note we chose few BSNL and MTNL service areas. For BSNL it was Corporate Office, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, North East and UP while for MTNL it was Delhi. Using a new email ID created solely for this purpose we sent out short emails to all the email IDs listed across BSNL/MTNL sites. In no time, we were bombarded with delivery failure messages.
- Delivery Failures
- BSNL Corporate office - four emails were sent out, including one to the CMD. Out of this the one sent to Director, Finance was being resent to three recipients and we received three failure messages. Reason was “The user(s) account is temporarily over quota”. Incidentally, BSNL website showed the position of Director, Finance as ‘vacant’.
- In Tamil Nadu circle, email sent to the Appellate Authority who is also the GM bounced with a “the user(s) account is temporarily over quota” message. Note that nodal officers don’t exist but Appellate Authority very much exists.
- Out of the 30 emails sent to Kerala circle officials, three bounced back. Reasons ranged from message rejected by the server to user does not have a domain account.
- Out of 31 emails sent out to Andhra Pradesh officials, five bounced back. One ID belonged to Additional GM and the rejection came from a sify server (pg_ap_dgmop (at) bsnl.co.in).
- Three emails failed to deliver in Maharashtra out of 34 we sent. Reasons ranged from user account disabled to email rejected by the server.
- In case of UP circle, three messages failed to deliver out of total 36.
- A total of 84 emails were sent out to GM/DGM level officials of MTNL, Delhi. As much as 15 of them failed to reach the destination. Reasons were similar to BSNL, either over quota or rejected by server. Two DGMs had an auto-reply like this with a link after that:
Thanks for trying to send me an email. I'm sorry but I did not receive it because I don't know if you are a person or a mass-emailing program. I accept email from any person (whether I know them or not) but I do not accept email from mass-emailing programs unless I have explicitly authorized them. I need you to click on the link below so that I know you are a person. Then please re-send me your email. You will never have to repeat this step. I am very much looking forward to reading your email.
- One official from Karnataka replied to our email with an OK from his Blackberry. That was a gmail ID though! We were glad that someone values research.
- Use of free email services: Despite of Indian government planning to instruct government employees to stop using free email services like Gmail, Yahoo Mail several BSNL employees seem to be using those services for official purposes. We noticed several officials in Karnataka, Kerala and North East circles using such accounts. In case of NE-II circle, three out of four officials, including the Appellate authority use gmail. What more, even the highest level of complaints will have to be sent out to gmail IDs - note that three out of four are gmail.
In addition to email we noticed that the Feedback link on BSNL's corporate website directs the user to Tenders page. The page never loaded for me though. I had tweeted this way back in August 2013, but the issue still remains!
— Chethan S (@gischethans) August 6, 2013
- If nodal officers no longer exist why list them in all circle websites to confuse consumers? While one might argue that very less email bounces were observed by us, our question is why should an email bounce in first place? Is it so hard for a company of BSNL/MTNL's stature to maintain email accounts in good shape?
- Though using gmail or other such email services may or may not be a national threat, officials must remember that using a BSNL/MTNL email ID adds to company's brand value. A trust factor also creeps in - if employees themselves do not use BSNL why would a broadband customer use those IDs. BSNL provides @bsnl.in email IDs to broadband customers.
- Though BSNL officials may be approachable over phone, phone calls can't be used as a proof of record unless the audio is recorded which is in fact illegal in India.
- Like private operators, BSNL could provide a well designed complaint form on their website (one which works and complaints are solved if booked through that) or provide a national level email ID.
Have you ever faced similar issues with BSNL/MTNL or any other operator? Let us know through your comments.