Privacy complaints against mobile phone companies have risen 98 per cent in the past year - the majority of them focusing on unauthorised use of personal data. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data said yesterday that from July last year to June this year, it received 85 complaints - up from 43 in the previous year. Hong Kong is believed to have the highest penetration rate of mobile phones in Asia, with 4.6 million in use by the SAR's 6.78 million people - or 67 mobiles for every 100 people - according to the Office of the Telecommunications Authority. Most complaints were related to the misuse of private information such as identity card numbers, said Tony Lam Wing-hong, the acting Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data. Mobile phone companies stand accused of losing private customer files, failing to comply with requests to stop service and allowing forgers to set up mobile phone accounts using false addresses. Wrong addresses had also been given to debt collectors by mobile companies, resulting in the wrong customers being hassled for payments they had already made, Mr Lam said. In addition, mobile providers had also given customers' outgoing-call records to unknown third parties who called service hotlines. 'The act of disclosing customers' records without their consent or authority would be in breach of the [Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance],' he said. 'Mobile service operators should devise a security protocol that authenticates the identity of a caller who requests information,' said Mr Lam. His office has investigated 138 of the 157 total complaints since 1996 and met Telecommunications Association of Hong Kong and major mobile providers last month. One case was referred to police for prosecution, with the majority of complaints settled through mediation. The meetings produced a 'guidance note' of suggested practices that has been released to mobile phone companies. All the complaints were filed against six specific companies, but the Privacy Commission would not disclose names. 'The companies had been very co-operative,' Mr Lam, said. 'They have told us they appreciate what the office has done to put together the guidelines and they will make sure their employees follow them in the future.' All mobile phone operators contacted for reaction said they had been following existing privacy guidelines to avoid abuses of private data. Sunday, Pacific Century CyberWorks and Hutchison said they required applicants to show their original identity cards and produce bank statements or utilities bills as proof of residency. They also said they only provided 'necessary information' to debt collecting agencies as set out in existing privacy guidelines. Since its launch in 1997, Sunday had received 'one or two' complaints from people who were billed for mobile phone connections they never applied for, public relations manager Mark Chan said. Mr Chan confirmed the Privacy Commissioner had met representatives from his company and discussed the issue. The Consumer Council welcomed the Privacy Commission's move. Last month the watchdog attacked the fast-growing telecommunications industry for having scored a record number of complaints. In the first six months of this year, the council received 1,517 complaints about services of which more than 60 per cent, or 968, concerned mobile phone services.