Extend cheaper calls to China

WHEN the Government concluded its negotiations with Hongkong Telecom in mid-1992, the public was led to believe that International Direct Dialling charges would be eight per cent cheaper on average later this year. But I feel betrayed by recent developments.

Officials of the company have been quoted in the press as saying that IDD rates for connections to China would not be lowered as part of the package.

According to newspaper reports as much as 40 per cent of the territory's current total IDD traffic is China-bound. I was therefore, surprised to hear that the biggest sector of IDD users do not stand to benefit from any price decrease.

Instead, Hongkong Telecom intends to concentrate its IDD rate reductions on destinations primarily in North America and Europe. Charges for calls to Western Europe, Canada and the US are said to be set to go down by about 20 per cent to achieve the overall eight per cent average.

Such a lop-sided mix, however, will be largely meaningless to callers because alternative calling card services at lower rates to Europe and North America are already in operation.

I am baffled why the Government would allow the company to reduce prices only to places where competition exists.

A bill allowing Hongkong Telecom a free hand to achieve the overall eight per cent target has recently been submitted to the Legislative Council.

I would like to call on legislators to look into the matter when they scrutinise the bill. One way to ensure that there are real benefits to consumers is to impose minimum levels of rate reduction for destinations in China.