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Terse phone bills, with no break-ups

Cost-cutting directives from the BSNL headquarters in New Delhi are set to affect subscribers in Calcutta. And the buzz is: there’s going to be less transparency in what he is being charged for.

According to the order, the days of long telephone bills — with a detailed break-up of what you were paying for — are over. The bills would have the number of metered calls, the long-distance calls made, the date and time each call was made, the number called and the duration.

Not any more. It’s now going to be just the amount printed on a slip of paper, against the subscriber’s name, address and telephone number.

This can make things difficult for the subscriber, who has to contend with ghost bills from time to time. Allegations of tapping and inflated bills continue to pour into Telephone Bhavan and the new, inscrutable bills can add to the harassment, say consumers’ rights activists. “The new billing rules are definitely going to make things tougher for the average consumer,” felt Consumers’ Unity and Guidance Forum spokesperson Prabir Basu.

Senior BSNL officials contend that subscribers unhappy with their bills can still apply for a detailed break-up, but along with the reason. “There will have to be sufficient grounds for someone asking for this special service,” an official added.

This terse billing system, say the officials, will enable the BSNL to save crores on stationery and printing. “BSNL subscribers have already started migrating, in however small numbers, to other land-line and mobile phone services. The chances of that being repeated here cannot be ruled out,” a BSNL official admitted, despite Delhi’s sudden need for a cost-cut.

But the officials, too, are going to face the music. The Delhi diktat has specified the number of free phones each officer can use, according to rank. All officials (except the seniormost cadre) who have been given BSNL mobiles will now have to give up all “unlisted” (not known to the public) fixed-line telephones at their office and home.

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