Many of the elderly people around us will, perhaps, recall the times when they had not heard of the mobile phone. The only dependable way of quick communication at that time was the home phone service.

With the huge success and popularity of the mobile phone in the last few decades, a substantial number of home phone service users have got their phone lines disconnected. The ongoing reduction in charges for voice calls by the mobile phone companies along with technological advancements was also responsible for this. Many people also thought that it was pointless to incur dual expenses when they can as well use their mobile phone while at home. This too contributed to the increase in disconnections as far as I am concerned. But, let me hasten to add that a very high number of disconnections were a result of many users feeling ripped off by their home phone service company.

My neighbor Jimmy was ripped off by his provider and he had a long tale of woes to share. I did my own research later to discover that home phone service companies use different tactics to rip off their customers.

Many companies in the insurance, banking and energy sectors have special dedicated phone lines for product questions, renewals and complaints etc. They often use non-geographical numbers so that they can route the incoming calls to any call center which is relatively free to take and answer such calls at that particular moment. Most of these companies rip off their customers in the under-noted ways:

• Old customers are made to pay while new customers get to make free calls to the same numbers – Many banking, insurance and energy companies come out with attractive offers where their new customers can make free calls to their given numbers for any questions etc. Such calls often last as much as 20 minutes. This facility is not extended to the existing customers of the company to rip them off. Even reputed companies were found to be indulging in this unfair practice.

• 2 or even 3 tier system of billing – Many home phone service companies have 2 or even a 3 tier system of billing for numbers starting with similar digits. Since no information on this is shared with the customers, they unknowingly fall prey to such tactics.

Consumer groups all over have been consistently demanding that the home phone service companies have greater transparency so that the consumers can make an informed choice and escape being ripped off.