SmarTone slapped on wrist for false claims

Robert Clark
26 Oct 2009

Hong Kong operator SmarTone has been fined just HK$110,000 ($14,140) for making deceptive claims about rival CSL and supplier ZTE.

It is the second just case for SmarTone, which three years ago was fined HK$100,000 for making false claims about its roaming services in billboard ads.

A SmarTone account manager had sent emails to CSL corporate customers in June last year, claiming that appointing ZTE as vendor in place of Nokia Siemens would affect the carrier’s network quality.

“Changing the network infrastructure was just like a human to have a BIG surgery,” the email claimed. “SmarTone could foresee that there would be lots of impact on CSL’s network both in terms of quality and stability.”

CSL had complained to Ofta about the email, which was aimed at enticing its customers to churn over to SmarTone.

Ofta said the conduct of SmarTone staff had been “irresponsible and misleading” and the breach of the telecoms ordinance had been “substantial” but with relatively limited impact on customers. The maximum penalty is HK$500,000.

Meanwhile, an Australian court has fined two companies A$15.75 million ($14.5 million) for sending out SMS spam.

In the first such case in Australia, Mobilegate Ltd and Winning Bid had gained an estimated A$2 million in a complex scam using fake web profiles on dating websites.

They had charged up to A$5 for calls to premium phone numbers, claiming that a real person was using the “Safe Divert” service to keep their mobile phone number private.

Chris Cheah, acting chair of regulator ACMA, said “the conduct of these respondents was particularly malicious and deceitful as it deliberately and systematically preyed upon vulnerable people, offering false hope and expectations.”

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