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PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 December, 2006, 12:00am

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

Ms Lai of Kornhill renewed her subscription to the weekly Economist news magazine in late October but the magazine was delivered irregularly. She phoned the subscription company, Magazines International, but the problem continued.

'On October 26, I received a phone call from the company. The saleswoman told me my subscription would expire soon and if I renewed my subscription with her immediately, I would continue to receive the Economist and there would be no disruption of the service,' she said.

'So I renewed the subscription but I have not received the Economist in the four weeks since. I called Magazines International, trying to reach the saleswoman. I left a message at her voicemail but there was no reply from her.

'I called the general line. A saleswoman answered my complaint. She promised she would contact the Economist and she would send me complimentary copies of the two issues that I had missed plus the issue that would be printed that week.

'I got two issues at the end of the third week, instead of three as the saleswoman promised. At the same time, I received a letter from the Economist Group, telling me my subscription had expired and inviting me to subscribe again.

'I did not get the missing issue. Magazines International did not send me a copy despite all it had promised.'

Magazines International said because Ms Lai did not renew her subscription until the expiry date, it was impossible not to have a time gap as it took time to process the new subscription.

The magazine has offered to send her the missing issues for free in addition to issues that will be covered under her new subscription.

A reader said his PCCW broadband service had slowed down so much that it no longer qualified as a broadband service. He complained to the company and then shopped around for other ISPs. To his shock, he found most services had contract escape clauses that did not guarantee bandwidth and speed.

'Two weeks ago the download and upload speeds of my PCCW broadband connection at home started grinding nearly to a halt,' he wrote. 'In trying to find a solution to the problem, I learned a great deal about the deceptive practices among internet service providers (ISP) which is not limited to PCCW but most ISPs in Hong Kong. The public should know about them, and do what they can to secure their interests.

'ISPs typically sell their so-called lightning-fast broadband service to the unsuspecting public with the promise of making available a high-capacity line. However, what they conceal is how much capacity from this big fat line customers will actually receive.

'Admittedly, not everyone will get maximum speed as the line is shared with other users. Statistically speaking, not every customer uses the internet at the same time; firewalls, computer configurations, or distance from the telephone exchange etc. also prevent customers from enjoying their full bandwidth.

'It is fair to say that without this sharing, broadband would not be affordable to residential customers, but when customers consistently experience only a fraction of the promised maximum speed, it is highly suspect that the ISPs are committing their lines to more users than they should.

'Such was the case two weeks ago when the speed of my 6 megabyte per second PCCW broadband connection gradually degraded to a dismal 400 kilobytes per second range from results tested by their own technicians with their own equipment.'

Then he found a clause in the PCCW small print service plan contract: '(To) the extent permitted by law, (PCCW) disclaim(s) any representation or warranty ... that Netvigator Broadband will be uninterrupted or error free.'

'What makes this repugnant is that at no stage was I informed by anyone from PCCW of this when I signed up for the service,' he said.

'Having inquired with other ISPs, I discovered that i-Cable, New World Telecom and Pacific Internet also give no minimum bandwidth guarantees, while Hutchison Telecom claims that I will get the full bandwidth and CTI claims 80 per cent of what is advertised according to their telephone agents, which sounds improbable.

'There clearly needs to be a Committed Rate of Information for ISPs in Hong Kong to guarantee a minimum bandwidth defined by an organisation like the Office of the Telecommunications Authority.

OFTA said that at present there is no internationally agreed definition of broadband.

A spokeswoman referred to a statement on the authority's website:

'Generally, the bigger bandwidth you have, the faster the speed you are able to surf the internet. However, the transmission speed will also be affected by other factors, such as the configuration of your personal computer, including the speed of the central processing unit, the capacity of the RAM and even the model of the browsing software you are using.'