Public warned over invalid phone cards

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 November, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 November, 2003, 12:00am

Some, with hundreds of dollars left in value, stopped working after one call

The public has been warned against buying pre-paid calling cards issued by smaller and less established companies after the Consumer Council received nearly 400 complaints since the start of last year about invalid cards.

Ching Pak-chung, vice-chairman of the council's publicity and community relations committee, identified 10 types of calling cards issued by five companies that may not work properly.

Professor Ching said although the calling cards were cheaper than those sold by major telecommunications companies they were often found to be unusable even after being topped up in value.

'In most cases, the callers found that their cards which should have a few hundred dollars left in value were no longer valid after only a 20-minute phone call,' he said.

Professor Ching said most victims were tourists and domestic helpers who were unfamiliar with the market situation.

The council received 179 complaints in the first 10 months of this year. In all of last year, 218 complaints were received. Professor Ching said some of the phone card companies were found to have closed or gone bankrupt.

Connie Lau Yin-hing, the council's chief research and testing officer, said the council had relayed its concerns to the Office of the Telecommunications Authority.

The authority said yesterday it was alarmed by the problem and that it had already held discussions with the industry. A spokesman for the authority said the industry had just issued a code of practice in an attempt to tackle the problem.

The authority said it had also posted the rogue companies on its website - - to warn the public.

Meanwhile, Ms Lau will succeed Li Kai-ming to become the deputy chief executive of the Consumer Council from Monday, when Mr Li retires after working for the organisation since shortly after its inception in 1974.