The monthly fees for the same broadband service plan offered by an operator through different subscription channels can be different by more than 40 percent, the Consumer Council has found.
In its latest study, the Council compared the residential broadband service plans provided by five local operators and found that the monthly fees, contract period, promotional offers and service terms varied across different subscription channels, including websites, shops, customer service hotlines and street booths.
In one example, a 24-month 1,000M broadband service plan offered by an operator at street booths would cost HK$206 per month for public housing tenants, but they would be offered a 45 percent higher fee of HK$298 per month if they subscribed to the same plan online.
The study found that three broadband operators offered cheaper plans at street booths, but one operator offered online subscribers a concessionary fee almost 20 percent cheaper than the booth price. Another operator provided the same rate for both online and street booth subscriptions, but gave a HK$20 monthly rebate for online subscriptions.
“It is a big challenge for consumers to pick the valuable plan,” said Gilly Wong Fung-han, Chief Executive of Consumer Council.
Wong added that consumers should go online, call the company and directly visit street booths to compare prices, before rushing to sign a contract.
The Council also advised consumers to pay special attention to extra administrative charges, such as a deposit or a fee for sending a hard copy bill by mail every month.
The Council said another challenge for consumers was that existing arrangements for contract termination were “usually very tedious” when their contracts expire.
It noted that one operator provides access to the termination form online, but the customer has to log into the account to download the form, while three operators require customers to visit one of their stores or call their customer service hotline to obtain the designated form.
It added that all operators required customers to return all their equipment to a designated location, or three operators would charge a collection fee.
It urged broadband operators to streamline the termination procedures, for instance they should accept termination requests by phone.
“This would make it easy for customers and also save the company administrative costs in handling termination requests,” the study said.