Hong Kong Broadband Network fined for unauthorised promotions disguised as reminder

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 September, 2015, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 September, 2015, 4:26am

A magistrate fined Hong Kong Broadband Network HK$30,000 on Wednesday for sending out promotions in the form of "reminders" to a customer who did not wish to receive such material.

The internet service provider is the first company to be convicted under section 35G of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance since it was amended in 2013.

Magistrate Debbie Ng Chung-yee noted that the internet service provider had trained staff to keep calling the customer even though he said he was unavailable. The company had argued that staff were simply reminding a customer his contract would soon expire, which would result in him being charged more.

But Ng dismissed this suggestion and called the telephone reminder "an opener to direct marketing".

Tsuen Wan Court heard earlier that a customer care officer rang Chan Man-chung on May 17, 2013, and left a voicemail message saying that his phone contact would expire soon and that she could help cut a new deal.

However, Chan had notified the company on April 8 - seven days after the new ordinance took effect - that he did not wish his details to be used in direct marketing.

Senior customer care officer Ho Chun-kit said the call was to remind Chan he might have to pay more when his discounted deal expired.

"If it was truly an effort to remind Mr Chan, you wouldn't have to call him so early," the magistrate said yesterday, noting that Chan was contacted more than six months in advance.

While the firm stressed earlier that a call was inevitable as it had to ensure the customer got the reminder, Ng said she could not see why a written notice or text message would not suffice.

In mitigation, barrister Tony Li, for the company, said the case did not involve the selling of personal information to a third party, and Chan had been offered discounts in compensation.

Deputy Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data Fanny Wong Kam-hing said outside court: "The HK$30,000 fine has sent a clear message to the public, be they customers or organisations involved in direct marketing, that they need to be careful and respectful of [personal privacy]."

A spokeswoman for the company said it would appeal.