Hong Kong's Office of the Telecommunications Authority this week issued a new code of practice to provide telecommunications companies with guidelines on the drawing up of service contracts for consumers.

"Hong Kong has one of the most competitive telecommunications markets in the world, and telecommunications services are also highly pervasive in our society. As a result, the number of consumer complaints has been substantial. A large proportion of these complaints are disputes about contractual matters," stated a spokesperson from OFTA.

The rules will be implemented on voluntary basis and takes effect immediately, replacing two similar codes which OFTA issued in 2004. OFTA issued a voluntary Code of Practice for the Service Contracts for the Provision of Public Mobile Radiotelephone Services in 2001 and the code was subsequently revised in 2004. They also issued the Code of Practice for the Service Contracts for the Provision of Public Telecommunications Service in 2004. These two codes provided that, among other things, language should be plain and words legible and salient points of a contract should be presented in a prominent place or highlighted in the contract.

In addition to the new code, OFTA has also been running a pilot alternative dispute resolution scheme since September 2008. Under this pilot scheme, selected cases of contractual disputes which cannot be resolved between the service providers and the customers are referred to independent professionals for adjudication on a voluntary basis. The aim of running the pilot scheme is to assess whether it may provide faster and more efficient out-of-court resolution of contractual disputes.


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