Plea to prevent abuses by dominant telephone firm

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 March, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 March, 1996, 12:00am

More work needs to be done to prevent Hongkong Telecom abusing its position as the dominant telephone company, the Consumer Council said yesterday.

In a report on plans to open the phone market to competition, the council said it had discovered 'significant market and structural barriers which new entrants have to overcome in order to offer a viable fixed network service'.

The Government broke Hongkong Telecom's monopoly on local calls last year by licensing three new competitors, but Hongkong Telecom still retains 99 per cent of the market.

Dr Sarah Liao Sau-tung, chairman of the council committee compiling the report, said: 'We basically think that the Government and the Office of Telecommunications are doing a good job.' But she said there were many steps that still needed to be taken, including: Ensuring the new companies can have access to land for their local exchanges; Making Hongkong Telecom disclose more financial data to ensure there are no hidden subsidies between businesses; Forcing Hongkong Telecom to share network information and other data with its rivals as long as it was not commercially sensitive; Ensuring customers can keep their old numbers if they change phone companies; And allowing the new companies to interconnect with Hongkong Telecom with prices at 'a reasonable level', including renting the local loop of wire that goes into the consumer's house.

However, the council remained on the fence over the suggestion, to be unveiled in the next two weeks, that the system of free local calls should be modified.

Dr Liao also said it had also not looked into whether Hongkong Telecom was making excessive profits. 'We do not have enough data to support or disprove this,' she said.