In an unprecedented move, Vodafone India has sued a customer for venting out his frustration and blatantly criticizing the company on social networking platform Facebook. At this time, the actual status messages of Dhaval Valia is not available. But the vodafone’s statement has a copy of the status of the message which is reproduced below. Probably there is more to this (other status messages).
Vodafone has sent an official legal notice to the mumbai resident Dhaval Valia for posting status messages that was very critical about the company and for having heated conversations with senior female officers, for publicly posting the name and contact details of two senior officials of vodafone (read CEO and CMO). Livemint reports saying "The notice held Valia respon- sible for "false allegations", "de- famatory statement on social networking website Facebook", sending "unneeded and unwar- ranted text messages to the com- pany's senior officers", having "heated conversation" with a "senior female officer", "threat- ening" the company, posting the "names and contact details" of two senior Vodafone officers who have been getting calls from the "public at large" and "facing mental trauma and torture" due to Valia's "intentional and mis- chievous conduct".
The original Facebook Status message:
Finally got Vodafone to admit that across Mumbai they have only 50% cell sites on 3G. Spoke to CEO (chief executive officer) and CMO (chief marketing officer). Told them that this is blatant cheating. CMO in typical babu style told me if you aren’t happy with service, you have choice to move to another operator. I told I choose to stay with Vodafone and give them grief if I don’t get promised SLAs. Grudgingly he made 2 months 3G plan free worth 2500.
The status update apparently got close to 10 likes and at least two dozen com- ments with different friends sharing similar bad service experiences with other telecom operators.
Dhaval Valia does not seem to relent. He has infact retaliated by sending a counter legal notice to vodafone. Also, he went on to post another status update about how he is baffled with vodafone’s approach!
This is a defamation case. In India, such cases take roughly 10-20 years to reach a settlement. And there is no clear legislation policies about content posted on websites or social media. It’s unclear how the things will proceed further. But vodafone is trying to show its might against a very open and noisy customer.
The larger question that has come out of this whole incident is: Can companies file legal cases against consumers retorting to social media and internet to express their angst and frustration? Is it not an infringement to the ‘right of speech’?
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