Pay-TV firm duped us, say welfare recipients

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 January, 2005, 12:00am

Social welfare beneficiaries have complained they were duped into signing up for a pay-television service with false promises of fee exemptions and channels they never received.

The Consumer Council is following up the complaints against Galaxy Satellite Broadcasting, which has admitted that monitoring its door-to-door sales, which are contracted out, is 'an issue'.

The company said it had settled some complaints but others were the result of misunderstandings.

The welfare recipients, from the Long Ping Housing Estate in Yuen Long, yesterday told the council Galaxy agents promised they would negotiate with the Social Welfare Department to have the fees waived.

Some also said they were promised up to 30 channels and a soccer channel but received only a fraction of these.

When they tried to terminate their contracts, Galaxy asked for a $300 termination fee, or offered to shorten their contracts by six months, they said.

Yuen Long District Councillor Zachary Wong Wai-yin, representing the complainants, said there had been 54 complaints concerning Galaxy's sales tactics since November 29.

'About 10 of them got out of the contracts because they insisted, but others were given different options, such as an extra HBO channel. It was very unfair,' he said.

'We tried to arrange a meeting with Galaxy last week but they refused. So we took the case to the Consumer Council.'

But a spokeswoman for Galaxy, a unit of Television Broadcasts (TVB), said it had been following up the complaints and had settled 10 by ending the contracts without penalty.

'But we have to deal with the cases on an individual basis because their complaints were different,' she said.

'Not everyone complained about the sales tactics. Some actually were not clear about the service. Others just didn't know how to use the system.'

She said the door-to-door sales service was subcontracted, and although monitoring the quality was an issue, the company had been having meetings with the agent to make sure sales staff provided correct information.

Welfare recipient Chung Ka-po said she agreed to subscribe to the service because her mother was at home most of the time.

'They said they would negotiate with the Social Welfare Department to waive the fees. But when I called the department, there was no such thing. And the soccer channel they promised did not exist,' she said.