Consumer group slams HK bandwidth throttling

Robert Clark
16 Mar 2010

Hong Kong’s consumer watchdog has weighed into local mobile providers over bandwidth throttling - prompting a stout defense by Ofta of its consumer protection efforts.

“If unlimited usage and high speed are two factors that determine your choice of a mobile broadband service plan for your computer, you may be in for a big disappointment,” the Consumer Council said Monday.

It says operators were not obliged to live up to their claims and user expectations. In particular, it said fair usage policies (FUPs) were “not consistent with promotional claims they make.”

The council said it was “concerned” that fair usage policies were being implemented in secret, “raising question of fairness to consumers when disputes arise.”

For an example of mobile promotion: here’s Smartone offering a “full rebate and unlimited data usage” (no asterisks) on a Nexus deal.

All Hong Kong cellcos throttle the bandwidth or even terminate the accounts of heavy users. Yet so far CSL is the only one to publicly announce a fair usage policy, claiming that 5% of users account for more than half of all network traffic.

In its immediate response to the criticisms, Ofta pointed to a new industry code for service contracts and the operators’ commitment to publish performance metrics.

It said FUPs were permitted “as long as they comply with the law and their license conditions.” That surely applies to anything the operators do.

However, Ofta says the number of FUP complaints has fallen sharply since January, thanks to unspecified “joint effort of Ofta and the industry.”

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