3 days in Thailand, HK$29,000 in roaming fees

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 April, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 April, 2010, 12:00am

When Anthony Lam Yue-yeung landed in Bangkok last September bound for what he expected to be a pleasant three-day holiday on the resort island of Koh Samui, he switched on his iPhone.

Like mobile phones everywhere it was swiftly flooded with welcome text messages offering roaming discounts and other services.

Lam selected an unlimited data roaming service offered by his provider, 3 Hong Kong, at a rate of HK$138 per 24 hours, confirmed and activated it, and proceeded to browse the internet from his phone as he usually does.

But Lam, a host for online radio station Hong Kong People Reporter, had a rude shock when he got his bill a month later.

Despite the discount rate he had selected, the bill included HK$29,026 for 'additional roaming charges' during the three days he had spent on the island.

The catch was that the discount applied only to True Move, a partner network of 3 Hong Kong, and during his travels his phone had connected to different networks depending on his location.

He and 3 Hong Kong are now in a deadlock, with him refusing to pay and the company demanding that he do so, and cutting off his service every few days to force him to pay.

'They told me the discount was only available in specific partnership networks and a standard rate applied when I roamed onto other networks,' Lam said. 'It is ridiculous. How am I supposed to know which network is their partner? And I wonder who will notice which network is in use when we are roaming overseas.'

But 3 Hong Kong insists the bill is justified. 'The welcome SMS clearly states that customer can enjoy data roaming service at a daily charge while roaming on True Move, as well as the subscription details,' a spokeswoman said. 'Mr Lam responded ... and subscribed to the service.'

Record showed that Lam had roamed onto other operators' networks with which standard charges applied, she said.

Lam said he was preparing to file complaints with the Consumer Council and the 'telecoms watchdog Ofta' .

The service operator said it would contact Lam this week in an effort to resolve the case.

The Consumer Council has received 134 complaints regarding mobile operators' GPRS charges in the first three months of this year.

A spokeswoman said the council had received several complaints on similar cases, and strongly advised the customers to check with their local operators before departure about the tariffs on roaming services.

'If consumers are to use overseas operators' economical plan for data roaming, they should change the network setting from auto-connect to manual connect,' she said.