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PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 July, 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 ...

Ronald Baker, of Tsim Sha Tsui, informed his internet service provider CPCNet Hong Kong in March that he wished to terminate his service at the start of May. He said the company not only would not cancel his account, it threatened to hire debt collectors to make him pay for charges between May and now.

'I am writing to ask for help in resolving a problem I am having with CPCNet, a Citic Pacific company,' he said.

'Many years ago, I opened a dial-up internet account with a company named Global Link Information Services. After several changes of ownership, this firm is now owned by CPCNet Hong Kong. Earlier this year, I decided to cancel my account with them, having arranged broadband service with another company.

'I wrote a letter asking them to terminate my account with effect from May 1, 2006. I mailed it to them with my payment for their March 2006 invoice. Then I sent a copy of this letter as a reminder when I paid their April invoice. When I received their May invoice, I returned it with a note addressed to their managing director reminding him that I had asked to cancel their service.

'During the same period, I received at least five telephone calls from various people in their company. The gist of the conversations was always the same: they refused to accept my cancellation because I had not signed their official cancellation form, as was their policy.

'Despite insisting that I sign the form, they never sent it to me. In any case, having sent them three written and signed letters clearly stating that I wanted to cancel the service [which I know they received], having given them two months' notice, and having wasted so much time speaking to them on the phone at least five times, I felt I had done enough to make my wishes clear to them.

'However, they sent me another invoice for June, which I ignored. Now, I have received an invoice for July. Enclosed with it was a letter saying that my service had been suspended. However, I would still be charged for the service during the suspension.

'Furthermore, they threatened to put the matter in the hands of a debt collector if I did not pay them everything they claimed I owed them.

'This talk about debt collectors seems like an attempt to intimidate me into paying money that they know I do not owe them. Are they really so desperate to get some cash?'

After a Take Action inquiry, a CPCNet spokeswoman said the company would cancel the $400-plus charges from the first of May.

'There has been a series of miscommunication,' she said. 'We have contacted him several times to remind him that it is company policy for clients to sign a termination form but he has only sent us written notices.

'However, he has been a long-time customer and we respect his wishes and want to keep him happy. We will waive the charges from May 1.'

A Mid-Levels reader was sent a Buildings Department order to demolish several small illegal structures at his home, which he accepted.

He was then sent an order by the Environmental Protection Department that he must hire a demolition specialist because of a potential asbestos hazard, even though all the illegal concrete slabs in the outer walls of his 15th floor unit were made of concrete without asbestos.

'I was just puzzled because I have no asbestos structures,' he said. 'However, there is a canopy made of asbestos corrugated cement sheets outside the floor below me. I suspect the Environmental Protection Department has simply counted the wrong floor because my building does not have a 13th floor.'

After a Take Action inquiry, several Environmental Protection Department inspectors went to check on the reader's unit and the one below him on the 14th floor. They have confirmed the asbestos canopy belongs to the 14th floor unit and have apologised for the error.

However, a department spokeswoman denied it was a mistake because a letter of notice had been sent to the tenants on the 14th floor unit as well.

'No mistakes were made,' she said. 'The department conducted an inspection [on the 14th floor] on July 20, 2006 and found a canopy made of asbestos corrugated cement sheets. It is intact and has been there for some time.

'Unless it is being disturbed or dismantled improperly, this asbestos-containing canopy roofing material presents no imminent risk to public health. The inspection on July 20 did not reveal any illegal works involving the canopy.

'As is our usual practice, we have issued a written notice to the owner about the presence of asbestos in his premises subsequently and advised him to engage a registered asbestos contractor to dismantle or carry out any works involving the canopy.'