PCCW ads for Net service misleading

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 May, 2007, 12:00am

Telecoms board gives ruling in appeal case

Advertisements by PCCW for its broadband services misled the public in 2004 and 2005 by failing to state that its uploading speed was slower than the downloading speed, the Telecommunications (Competition Provisions) Appeal Board has ruled.

Overturning a decision made by the Office of the Telecommunications Authority (Ofta), the appeal board upheld a complaint filed by PCCW rival Hong Kong Broadband Network in November 2005 and rejected by Ofta in April last year.

PCCW, which has over 1 million broadband users, said yesterday that the company adjusted its advertisements all the time, and that its adverts were no longer at issue. The company also said it hoped the whole industry would move together in improving the quality of service.

However, Hong Kong Broadband Network said that PCCW was still misleading the public, as marketing material on its website still did not publish the uploading speed of its broadband service.

Hong Kong Broadband Network initially complained to Ofta about newspaper advertisements for PCCW's Netvigator broadband service in 2004 and 2005. The adverts claimed the speed of the broadband service was three to eight megabits per second (mbps), but did not disclose the difference between the downloading and uploading speed. PCCW provides broadband service through its telephone network using a technology called asymmetrical digital subscriber line [ADSL], which limits the upload speed to around 640 kilobits per second - far slower than the downloading speed.

Broadband service providers such as Hutchison Global Communications and Hong Kong Broadband Network provide their services through a fibre-optic network, which has identical download and upload speeds of 10 to 200 mbps, depending on the monthly tariff.

In April last year Ofta ruled that PCCW's adverts did not violate the Telecommunications Ordinance and were not misleading or deceptive. PCCW had told Ofta that the upload speed and other features of its ADSL service were too technical for the public to understand.

Hong Kong Broadband Network appealed against Ofta's decision that same month. After three rounds of inquiry, the appeal board reached its judgment on April 24, and published it on its website only recently. It found that PCCW's advertisements for its Netvigator broadband service had been misleading.

The board found that Ofta should impose appropriate penalties, and PCCW should bear the cost of the appeal. Service providers, it ruled, had a duty 'to ensure the accuracy and clarity of the details, so that no such misleading interpretation would arise'.


PCCW's advertisements in 2004 and 2005 quoted a fast download speed of up to eight megabits per second but did not state the much slower upload speed, in kilobits, of 640