According to consumer activists, the total money with the company for talk-time that now cannot be used may run into crores of rupees even if just the lowest refill of Rs 180 is considered for each subscriber.
Under the facility of mobile number portability (MNP), while switching over to one operator from another, both the companies need to coordinate and exchange certain information, such as the unique porting code UPC), to transfer the number. But since the company has virtually closed down all its operations, it has left no option for many consumers and other operators but to go for a new number.
Sources at other cell phone operators in the city also confirmed the fact that MNP was a process to be carried out for subscriber by both the operators involved.
“Unless and until the existing operator provides the UPC of a customer to his new operator, the switchover cannot happen,” said a source from a cell service operator. “As all of Uninor’s operations are shut, the process will not materialize or may be considered invalid.”
Experts said there could be two solutions to the problem: either the government can ask the company to technically operate till the time people switch over or it can allot new UPCs to the companies to absorb consumers.
A Uninor statement said it was helpless in the face of the Supreme Court order to shut down, but was looking at solutions.
A company statement read: “The only fact here is that the SC ordered an immediate closure and we could not have stood in violation of the SC order. Unlike in other circles, we have not been able to give adequate notice or help customers port out. This is not the manner in which Uninor would have wanted to close down the business in Mumbai. Having complied with the court order, we are in dialogue with the authorities to explore any solution that allows our customers to port out to other operators of choice.”
Achintya Mukherjee of the Bombay Telephone Users’ Association (BTUA) said the authorities should have spared a thought for the common consumer.
“We deplore the action taken by the authorities to suddenly disconnect all subscribers of Uninor, leaving them in confusion,” Mukherjee said. “Where should the consumer go if he or she wants to retain the number and get back the pre-paid amount? The decision process could have easily avoided this inconvenience to consumers,who are now running pillar to post for redressal.”
Mukherjee said the bulk of the massive sum of money locked up in the entire action would be of pre-paid consumers. The average number of pre-paid subscribers across the board in the industry is 94 to 95 percent of mobile users.
“Last heard, the average revenue of Uninor per user (ARPU) was a satisfactory Rs. 180/- per user. This does not mean that the money involved would be necessarily a multiple of Rs.180/- x 18 lakh users for the Mumbai circle. There are many consumers who recharge for more than a months of usage. In some cases, like bulk users (where companies with their entire employee population is registered as users of UNINOR) would have substantial amounts paid in advance. It is frightening to imagine the consequences for such parties, settling their accounts,” he added. However company sources were unable to comment on the complaints of pending pre-paid amounts.
What is MNP?
MNP or mobile number portability (MNP) allows consumer to transfer his/her existing mobile phone number from one mobile phone network provider to another mobile phone provider so that if you change mobile phone networks you do not have to give everyone a new number. The process in which you can retain your existing mobile number even after changing the operator is called MNP.
For this consumer has to just send an SMS — PORT(space)(10 digit number) — to 1900. Then the operator has to allot you an UPC code which can then be taken up with the new operators for connection. Ideally, within six days the new operator should allot you the connection as in between process of checking documents and security clearance is conducted.