Mobile phone complaints soar

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 January, 2007, 12:00am

Broadcasting services also big area of concern, says watchdog

Complaints about mobile phone and broadcasting services have risen by more than 30 per cent.

A total of 2,371 mobile phone service complaints were recorded last year compared with 1,708 in 2005, an increase of 38 per cent, Consumer Council figures released yesterday showed.

The council also received 2,211 cases involving broadcasting services in 2005 compared with 2,922 last year, a rise of 32 per cent.

Council chairman Chan Ka-keung said most mobile phone service complaints concerned hotline service quality, fee disputes over 3G services and contract problems. 'As for broadcasting services, the complaints mainly were related to pay television services such as aggressive sales tactics, fee disputes and renewal of contracts.

'Notices of contract renewal were sent way earlier than actual expiry dates, and consumers tend to forget to cancel the contract or to renew it. Operators will then renew contracts for up to 18 months with a much more expensive fee automatically if they do not hear anything from their customers.'

The council believed increased competition was the main cause of the aggressive sales tactics.

Despite the figures, the total number of complaints covering all goods and services filed to the council dropped by 2 per cent, from 36,614 in 2005 to 35,962 last year.

'The reduction of complaints was attributed to the drop in complaints against the beauty industry, which adopted a code of practice last year,' Mr Chan said.

To better protect consumers' interests, the council said it had always supported the idea of merging the Broadcasting Authority and telecom watchdog Ofta so the two industries could be placed under a single jurisdiction.

'Consumers now are given a package of services which might include pay television, internet and even phone services. It is easier to handle complaints if these operators are regulated by one single body,' Mr Chan said.

The council said it had been working closely with Ofta and telecommunications operators to set up consumer dispute adjudication, a scheme announced last year.

'We expect a trial run of the scheme to be introduced in the second quarter of this year. The scheme will handle complaints about telecommunications services,' Mr Chan said.

Under the scheme, an adjudicator will be appointed to make judgments on complaints about telecommunications services and decide on action to solve disputes between customers and operators.

'By doing so, it will be easier for victims to claim compensation if their complaints are found valid. But now we can only talk to the operators and act as a mediator, and have no power to ask them to do anything.'

An Ofta spokeswoman said the scheme operated on a voluntary basis. 'Operators can choose to join our scheme, which can help improve their companies' image. But the details of the scheme are still being discussed,' she said.