Telecoms firms shun new voluntary code

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 February, 2010, 12:00am

Not one telecoms operator has offered to adopt a new voluntary guideline that proposes a seven-day cooling-off period to allow consumers to cancel contracts.

The Office of the Telecommunications Authority, which issued the code last week, said it might consider a mandatory code if the number of complaints remained high.

Some critics have urged the watchdog to take a harder stance given the lukewarm response.

Telecommunications services are a frequent target of consumer grievances. The watchdog received 4,016 complaints last year, a slight drop from the 4,317 in 2008.

Most complaints, 1,752, were about mobile services, followed by broadband services (1,099).

Marion Lai Chan Chi-kuen, director general of the watchdog, admitted no operators had offered to adopt the new code so far, although 'some had given positive responses'.

'We will urge them to declare their views as soon as possible and hope they will choose to follow,' she said. 'A mandatory code will not be necessary if we can see a drop in the number of complaints.'

Ofta said operators were worried that a cooling-off period could be abused, but Lai said the issue was discussed thoroughly in two rounds of consultations. She was optimistic they would eventually sign up.

'Their pledges to the guideline will be publicised on their website and that will be like a Q-mark certification to give consumers confidence in their services. We might also take enforcement actions if the operators' compliances are found to be misleading or inaccurate.'

In addition to the cooling-off period, the code also suggests that customers could terminate the contract if there are changes in service quality or prices due to a change in contract terms. The operators must also not renew contracts automatically without the prior consent of customers.

Charles Mok, chairman of the Internet Society Hong Kong Chapter, attributed the lukewarm response to a lack of incentives. 'The operators are usually reluctant to be the first mover and they will wait until the last second before serious measures are to be taken. Ofta should set a clear timeline to review the code and take a harder stance in the matter.'

Ringing in their ears

Ofta received 1,532 complaints about mobile services in 2008

Last year this rose to 1,752, an increase of: 14%



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