Dhawan says company is in doldrums without internet Image Credit: GN Archive

DUBAI: A two decade old Dubai company is on the verge of closing down as their internet services remain unrestored almost two months since they were cut off over an unpaid bill of Dh358,240.58.

On April 21, XPRESS had reported how a case of suspected phone hacking left Sakshi Advertising and PR with the outrageous bill for hundreds of calls made to Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cook Islands, Cuba, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Monaco, Gambia, Tunisia and the UK.

In February, the firm was billed Dh207,213.85 that included a monthly recurring charge of Dh1,869 and a phone usage charge of Dh202,797.09 for the 31-day billing period between January 1 and 31 while in March the amount shot to Dh358,240.58 with another Dh149,157.73 added in usage charges for the window between February 1 and 29.

Chief executive officer Atul Dhawan, who denies any of his staff ever made those calls, says the bill was allowed to climb by their telecom operator du in March even after he had registered a formal complaint with them, notifying them of a suspected fraud, on February 25. However all services – including internet lines - were disconnected at his office by du within weeks on March 13 for non-payment.

Awaiting reports

Dhawan subsequently lodged complaints with the police and the Telecommonications Regulatory Authority (TRA) but almost two months on, the firm that employs 40 people, are still without internet.

“The dispute is over the phone bills and we are still awaiting formal reports from the police to establish if there was a fraud but why are we are we being denied something as basic as internet? Until  the case is resolved, the least du could do is restore our internet. This way we are slowly being pushed to the brink. We have already lost huge business deals,” says Dhawan, who founded the company in 1996.

“We have been asked to clear all dues for services to restart but why should we pay when we are sure we didn’t make the calls and there is no formal report yet from the police to prove otherwise?,” asks Dhawan who reckons another week without internet would spell abosulte doom for his Tecom company. “If this goes on, we will soon be out of business and that could affect so many employees and their families?”.

Rakhi Makhija who manages the company’s corporate affairs says cutting off internet lines is like stifling a professional at work, especially in the media and advertising industry.

“Forget about sending (and receiving) heavy files like artworks and designs that can’t be downloaded (or uploaded) using mobile data. Sometimes we can’t even do something as basic as downloading images from links on our phones,” she says.

“To get our job done, we have to often either beg for passwords from our neighbouring offices or buy a coffee at a café to use free wifi. It’s not how you would work ideally but we have been pulling along somehow this way, spending a bomb every week,” says Suzan Khan, a senior executive at the company. “In a city like Dubai, cutting off internet is like denying a person his or her basic right,” said another staff.

A du spokesperson told XPRESS: “We would like to reiterate that upon receiving the details of the complaint through the customer and TRA, we responded directly and promptly. The matter is currently under examination and any further discussion will be directly taken up with Sakshi Advertising & PR.” du had earlier denied there were any lapses from their end.