CSL 'conceded billing glitch'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 10:49pm


A customer suing telecommunications provider CSL over what he says are erroneous phone charges told a tribunal yesterday that a CSL executive conceded a 'glitch' might be responsible for one of the bill items.

Ben Sargent is taking the company to court in what is believed to be the first legal action over non-transparent fees. Sargent earlier initiated legal proceedings in the Small Claims Tribunal against CSL, seeking to recover HK$345 for a 43-minute call to what he says is a toll-free British number, and HK$2,540 in roaming charges for calls during a trip to Italy and Dubai.

Sargent and a lawyer for CSL appeared at the tribunal yesterday for a brief hearing on upcoming procedures in the case.

Sargent told adjudicator So Wai-wak about a conversation he had with Paul Hodges, CSL's executive vice-president of corporate, wholesale and international services, about Sargent's call to Britain.

'Hodges said they had an error in the system,' Sargent said.

Sargent argues that he should not have to pay extra charges for making the call because the British toll-free number was not a 'premium' number, as CSL claims.

CSL says its service plans do not cover premium numbers, which are 'numbers other than normal fixed and mobile numbers'. 'CSL did not incur extra costs, so I don't understand why they have to charge us for something they did not incur themselves,' Sargent said.

The plaintiff says he has spent 11 months pressing the phone company to reveal its tariffs and registered address, but he has been unable to obtain the information so far.

'The amount of effort required is significant, to bring clarity,' he told the adjudicator.

'We have to go to such great lengths just to get a bill rectified.'

The adjudicator adjourned the case to August 28 to give Sargent time to change his claim. Sargent will now confine the case to the roaming and British call charges.

Sargent signed on as a customer with CSL in 2005.

CSL has some of the highest roaming rates in Hong Kong.

Its rates in Italy, for example, are from HK$27.64 to HK$46.56 a minute, compared to PCCW's HK$26.90 to HK$33.46 a minute.

As a group, Hong Kong telecommunication providers charge some of the highest roaming rates in the world.