Fri, Jul 13, 2007 - Page 12 News List

Group pans telecoms for unreasonable rates

By Jackie Lin and Lisa Wang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

A consumer advocacy group yesterday criticized local telecommunications operators for unreasonable rates, calling on them to reduce prices to match those charged by Skype.

The Consumers' Foundation (消基會) released a survey on the tariffs of nine second-generation (2G) and third-generation (3G) service providers, emphasizing that most operators charge higher rates for calls made from landline phones to cellphones than for calls from cellphones to landlines.

The foundation called the rate differences unreasonable because mobile service providers can also charge the recipient of a call made from a landline phone to a mobile phone.

Foundation chairman Cheng Jen-hung (程仁宏) panned the operators for failing to make public detailed tariff information.

He also said calls made from landline phones to 3G phones should not cost more than those made to 2G phones because callers do not have access to image functions.

The foundation found that First International Telecom Corp (大眾電信), the nation's only short-range PHS operator, charged the lowest rate for calls made to landline phones at NT$0.06 per second, similar to the NT$0.055 per second tariff charged by Skype, an online service operated by Internet portal PC Home Online (網路家庭) in Taiwan.

The foundation called on the National Communications Commission to require that telecom operators slash rates to match First International Telecom's.

The nation's telecom industry regulator yesterday said it would not request a flat rate, believing it could hamper market competition, the Central News Agency reported, citing an unnamed official.

In addition, the commission questioned the survey's accuracy, saying it was misleading to compare the rates charged by PHS operators with those of 2G or 3G operators.

Chunghwa Telecom Co (中華電信), the nation's largest phone company, said its tariffs were carefully calculated, adding that it does not overcharge 3G subscribers placing calls to landlines.

"Chunghwa Telecom rates are based on the service packages our subscribers choose and not on whether 2G or 3G technology is being used. In addition, we believe rates should be determined by market mechanisms, not by us," Shih Mu-piao (石木標), a Chunghwa Telecom spokesman, said in a phone interview with the Taipei Times.

Shih said he disagreed with the foundation's call to cut rates for calls to landline phones to NT$0.055 per second.

Chunghwa Telecom users pay NT$0.1 per second for mobile-to-landline-calls.

Vibo Telecom Inc (威寶電信), an exclusively 3G service provider, said its service packages should prove most economical, as it found in a survey that only 10 percent of calls from 3G phones were placed to landlines.

Vibo charges the same voice rates for calls made within Vibo's networks or made to phones on other operators, it said.

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