Phone firms told to end 'free' text deals

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 January, 2010, 12:00am

Mobile phone network operators will soon be required to terminate contracts with content providers who mislead customers with so-called free pay-text messages which are costing some users a small fortune.

The government revealed in a Legislative Council paper yesterday that a code of practice will be in place this month to improve transparency for such services after a string of complaints by angry customers.

Unsuspecting mobile phone users have signed up for free text message services but when they receive texts they are actually being charged a substantial amount of money.

The code of practice would require service providers to indicate prominently the chargeable nature of the services, obtain consent from users and set out clear arrangements on how to unsubscribe.

Mobile operators will be required to ensure that any dispute over charges for text messaging will not affect subscribers' normal mobile phone services.

Operators will be required to terminate their contracts with providers who fail to rectify a breach of the new guidelines within 24 hours.

The row over text billing surfaced last month. The Consumer Council received 470 related complaints in the first 11 months of last year. In one case, a man paid HK$8,000 for a 'free' friend-seeking service.