take action

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 April, 2006, 12:00am

The column for anyone fed up with bureaucracy, frustrated with delays, or furious with poor service. Tell us your complaint and we'll try to fix it ...

A long-time user of Hutchison's mobile service said the company was adopting loanshark methods by harassing loyal customers for unbilled charges at midnight.

This involved sending text messages (two in the space of 42 seconds) at midnight urging her to pay them by credit card within two hours or her connection would be cut off. This was for IDD calls she had not yet been billed for and at a time when she was $453 in credit after overpaying her previous bill.

'On the evening of March 7, at 6.40pm, I received a text message telling me my 'mobile [roaming] charges' had exceeded the preset limit and asking me to call Ms Chan,' she said.

'Later that day, I was woken by a second message on my mobile phone at 11.48pm. This message repeated the same information. I did not call Ms Chan as it was virtually midnight and I thought it best to leave it until morning. However, 42 seconds later, I received a third message. 'This said the same thing, but added: 'Please call Ms Chan in two hours to avoid service suspension'.'

Threatened with suspension, I called the telephone number and spoke to someone who told me my roaming charges were $1,600, which was over my preset limit, and could I pay immediately. I was asked for my credit card number. At this point, I became suspicious.

'I honestly thought I was a victim of a fraudster. In view of this, I asked the person on the phone to get someone to call me the following day during normal office hours.

'I did not receive a call the following day, or the day after that. So on March 9, I called back. This time I was able to establish that the call was authentic and the $1,600 were not roaming charges but IDD calls, mainly to Vietnam.

'My business partner was in Vietnam so I was able to confirm the calls were genuine. I was told I should pay immediately because I had exceeded my preset limit. Please bear in mind that I had not been billed for these calls and at no point had I ever been told I had a preset limit.

'I requested a copy of the bill detailing the charges. The bill arrived on March 11 dated March 9. It was marked as an interim bill and said I had to pay before March 18. The bill seemed to say only my IDD and roaming service would be at risk if I did not pay.

'However, the same day I received a text message saying my March bill, which included the $1,600 IDD charges, was due and should be paid before March 24. As this message came after the bill date, I took this to mean I had until March 24 to pay the bill. At $1,314, it was also less than the $1,600 bill as my account was in credit by $453 from the previous month.'

On March 21, her whole phone service was cut off, after which she paid immediately.

'I cannot imagine any business in Hong Kong - or indeed in the developed world - operating like this by harassing customers at midnight and demanding payments on unbilled transactions in the manner of a loanshark.'

Hutchison said the customer was called as a precaution because her number was registering more overseas calls than usual.

'On March 7, our system detected that there was a sudden upsurge of her IDD usage for the period of late February to early March,' a company spokeswoman said. 'We therefore took the initiative to contact her to draw her early attention to the unusual usage pattern, hence protecting her interest.'

She acknowledged there might have been miscommunication with frontline staff.

Reader William Wong bought a new Toyota Camry in February from Crown Motors and immediately noticed three problems: dirt on the front seat; continuous electrical noise coming from the front passenger side; and an ill-fitting trim cover in the boot that made opening it difficult.

Mr Wong said Toyota failed to ask him to examine the car when he first went to pick it up. 'Surely, I would have noticed, instead of having to wait until driving it home.'

He said it was absurd to have these problems in a new car and has demanded to exchange it.

Crown Motors replies: 'As a very responsible dealer, we place the highest priority on our customer satisfaction. In the case of any customer complaint, we follow a well-established procedure to help solve problems as quickly and smoothly as possible.

When Mr Wong contacted us to complain about the problems, we invited him to bring his car into our service centre for free inspection and repair. Our general manager, customer care manager and service manager also visited Mr Wong personally in a genuine attempt to help solve his complaint.

Crown Motors also offered to provide him with a courtesy car to use while his car was under repair. However, Mr Wong has refused our offer. We would like to request once more that Mr Wong bring his car into our service centre so we can examine and repair it to his satisfaction.'