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Thu, Feb 08, 2001 - Page 3 News List

City councilors take telecoms to task

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Mobile phone operators should include an itemized list of charges in customers' monthly phone bills, Taipei city councilors said yesterday.

The councilors also said Far EasTone (遠傳電信) should publicly apologize for wrongfully billing some of its customers and asked that the customers be refunded their money.

Today, state-run Chunghwa Telecom (中華電信) is the only mobile phone operator to include an itemized list of charges in monthly phone bills. Other operators, such as Far EasTone, charge for the printout.

Taipei City Councilors Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康), Chiang Kai-shih (江蓋世) and Tsai Chiu-huang (蔡秋凰) jointly held a press conference yesterday to ask that mobile phone operators change their practices. The councilors were responding to a complaint filed by a group of college students, who say Far EasTone mischarged them.

Although the company failed to attend the press conference held at the Taipei City Council yesterday, company spokewoman Yvonne Lan (藍綺萍) later told the Taipei Times that Far EasTone has not yet decided whether to include the itemized lists along with phone bills.

"However, we'll provide monthly subscribers with a free printout of their phone records if they request one before the end of March," Lan said.

The company said it couldn't be at the press conference yesterday because its top officials were attending a New Year's luncheon held to announce Far EasTone's 2000 financial results.

According to a company press release, Far EasTone earned more than NT$4 billion last year, or 147 percent more than the year before. Subscribers climbed to 3.4 million, or 100 percent more than in 1999.

The company also issued a written apology.

"The company deeply regrets that the upgrading of our billing system has caused inconvenience and confusion to our clients," the press release said. "Although we find that some of our clients have been wrongfully billed, only less than 10 percent of our clients have been affected." To make amends, Far EasTone said those who were wrongfully billed would be entitled to a 10 percent discount off their monthly rental fee next month.

In addition, the amount that was incorrectly charged would be deducted from their next bill.

Citing his own experience, Ma Wen-yu (馬文鈺), a student representative of Chinese Culture University, said that he had to "go through hell" dealing with the company.

"When I was persuaded to purchase 10 cellphone numbers from the company at a discount last October, they told me that I wouldn't be held liable for any fees if I didn't make any calls," Ma said. "But I was shocked to find just the opposite when I received my first phone bill."

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