Irate CSL user keeps up fight on pricing plan

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 October, 2013, 4:03am

Telecoms firm CSL failed in its latest attempt to silence one of its customers at the sixth attempt in a two-year dispute over a lack of transparency in the operator's pricing plans.

Disgruntled customer Ben Sargent rebuffed CSL's sweetened HK$197 settlement offer, up from a previous HK$23, at the Small Claims Tribunal yesterday.

Sargent, who works for an investment bank, also refused to sign the operator's gagging clause. He offered to end the dispute for HK$1,000 without signing a confidentiality agreement.

He said he was taking his action on principle: "This isn't only about overcharging for these calls. It is about setting a precedent. If the court agrees, they must be held to their tariff. Any future [or past] overcharges will be easily claimable."

The original dispute focuses on HK$345 for a 43-minute call Sergeant made to what he says was a toll-free British number, and HK$2,540 in roaming charges that he said were higher than CSL's published rates. He later reduced the amount he was claiming to HK$49.94 and a refund of the toll-free charge of HK$352.60.

It is believed to be the first legal action over lack of transparency in a telecom provider's fees.

Adjudicator Colin Wong Sze-cheung, who was unable to end the deadlock, said: "This case has dragged on for too long."

He urged the two parties to come to an agreement.

At the hearing, CSL representative Koie Shea Siu-man told the court that the firm was unwilling to settle because "our reputation has been harmed".

CSL said it would discredit evidence involving e-mail exchanges between Sargent and CSL customer services in a future hearing.

A company spokeswoman said CSL would now wait for the court decision. "We have tried to explain the charging principle of roaming and Mr Sargent has revised his claims from time to time, which is why the case has dragged on for so long," she said.