Buy a number and dial your way to fortune

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 August, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 August, 1996, 12:00am

Numbers with 'lucky' digits will soon be sold to customers under proposed wide-ranging reforms unveiled last night to make telephone companies more accountable.

The Government wants to cash in on the high demand for telephone numbers which people believe will help them dial their way to a fortune.

Those featuring the number eight (which means 'get rich' in Cantonese) would be auctioned, and the proceeds donated to charity, said Alex Arena, the Director-General of Telecommunications.

The Telecommunication Users Group has come out in support of the move and compared it to the auctioning of 'lucky' car licence plates.

The selling of 'lucky' numbers has been made possible by proposed amendments to the Telecommunication Ordinance, which is designed to implement the Government's competition policy in the fast-growing industry.

The amendments will outlaw anti-competitive practices such as price-fixing, preventing competitors from obtaining goods or services, and agreements which divide up the market.

A telephone-service provider which dominates the market would be forbidden from abusing its position.

Hongkong Telecom stands as the industry's most powerful player after enjoying years of monopoly which ended recently with the introduction of competition from three other fixed-line operators.

Mr Arena said the legislative changes were mostly 'housekeeping' to bring laws into line with conditions being imposed on newer licences.

They would put all carriers, including fixed-line networks, on an equal footing, he said.

Telecommunications Users Group spokesman Graham Mead last night welcomed the move.

Customers would benefit from a move to write into law prohibitions against misleading or deceptive advertising in the increasingly competitive market, he said.

A voluntary code of practice for telecommunications companies is already in place.

The amendments will allow any consumer to take court action to seek damages or injunctions. Previously, a judge would decide whether an action should be heard in court, Mr Arena said.