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Press Release
Press Release
8 Jan 2004
Dominant Player Defies Repeated Warnings and Rejects Number Porting Requests
Unfair Ruling by the Regulator

The Hong Kong Government liberalized the local fixed telecommunications services network market in 1995 in response to consumers' rising demand for telecommunications services. The purpose is to provide consumers with more and better choices of telecommunication services at reasonable prices.

To speed up the market liberalization process, the Telecommunications Authority ("TA") directed all local fixed-line operators to facilitate the portability of numbers. However, to date, numbers porting for fixed-line customers have not progressed satisfactorily.

Since the market liberalization 8 years ago, the dominant player - PCCW-HKT Telephone Limited (PCCW), has deployed various means to delay and obstruct customers from switching to new fixed-line operators. Many number porting requests have been rejected without any valid reason. Despite the problem being escalated to the TA, so far there has been no improvement, instead the problem is getting worse. During the past 8 years, countless number porting requests have been unreasonably delayed or rejected by the dominant player, which seriously undermine the reputation and operation of new fixed-line operators.

In March 2002, in response to complaints by two fixed-line operators, the TA issued a warning to PCCW, for failing to process over 500 number porting requests. In that warning the TA warned that, "...swift and decisive action would be taken on the next occasion should a similar breach occur in the future, with the likely result being the imposition of a financial penalty,". However, the problem continues. On 5 January 2004, the TA again issued a warning to PCCW after it had rejected 135 number porting requests from Wharf T&T. The repeated warning confirms that the problem with number porting in the fixed-line market persists. This repeated breach of direction and licence condition begs the question that PCCW may have purposely obstructed customers from switching to other fixed-line operators, a practice that may amount to anti-competitive conduct. Meanwhile, Wharf T&T continues to suffer very high rejection by PCCW over number porting requests. The rejection rate from August to December 2003 was as high as 25%. The warning issued by the TA has not improved the situation.

Yet, with only 9 number porting requests which Wharf T&T was not able to process, the TA also issued the same warning to Wharf T&T. This is despite the fact that the inability to process these 9 requests was brought on by PCCW's rejection of 135 number porting requests from Wharf T&T and Wharf T&T had to divert resources to handle those requests that PCCW wrongly rejected.

It is entirely unfair that Wharf T&T received the same warnings as PCCW, which has already amassed a very bad record. Despite the numerous complaints against PCCW, the TA has failed to take effective regulatory actions to combat the problem.

Indeed, we fail to understand why the TA has issued the same warning to PCCW and Wharf T&T when in the case of PCCW it is a repeated breach and is of a much larger scale compared to that of Wharf T&T.

We believe that the TA should seriously take into consideration the much larger volume of number port requests that PCCW rejected and its repeated breach in determining the appropriate actions to take against the dominant player. Unless the TA takes effective action, new operators will continue to face the on-slaught by the dominant operator.

Although the volume of number porting requests in the fixed-lines market is far less than those in the mobile market, the problem with delay and rejection of number porting in the fixed-line market remains a serious one. The success rate of mobile number porting exceeds 95%, which is far higher than the number porting in the fixed-line market with only less than 80% success rate.

Further, the procedures for mobile number port are simpler and convenient. Customers are only required to fill in relevant forms and the process takes just 3 working days. However, for fixed-lines, many number port requests are being rejected or delayed by PCCW for a whole host of reasons and some of them are clearly unreasonable. The requests can still be rejected despite the fact that all relevant information provided are confirmed as correct by the customers. This may be due to outdated records of PCCW's database, which gives them excuse to reject porting requests. Apart from that, although the availability of number porting in the fixed-lines market was instituted much earlier than in the mobile market, yet OFTA only publishes statistics regarding mobile number port, while statistics on fixed-lines number port are not published. It is not surprising then that the public has not been made aware of the seriousness of the rejection of number porting requests for fixed lines.

Wharf T&T fully supports the liberalization of the telecommunications market. However, PCCW keeps delaying and rejecting number porting requests, using all sorts of excuses thereby obstructing consumers from switching to other operators. This has resulted in growing number of customer complaints. The problem is not improving and is actually getting worse as evidenced by the second warning issued to PCCW.

Wharf T&T calls upon the TA to give top priority to consumers' interests to effectively combat the high rejection of number porting requests by PCCW.

To prevent any unreasonable rejections of number porting requests, OFTA should consider reducing the information required for processing of number porting requests. Currently, the customers have to provide information with full accuracy, including name/company name, ID number/business registration number, and telephone number. By relaxing some of these requirements the number port procedure would be simplified significantly and PCCW would have less excuse to reject or delay number port request.

If the TA continues to ignore the problem and allows PCCW to turn a blind eye to warnings, it will jeopardize the rights of consumers and retard the development of competition.

In order to create an open and truly competitive telecommunications market, we strongly urge the TA to stop PCCW from taking advantage of the current number port procedures by putting in place effective measures and procedures.

About Wharf T&T Limited

Wharf T&T, licensed in 1995, is one of the fastest growing fixed-line operators with significant investment in its own telecommunications network infrastructure in Hong Kong. Since its debut when the Hong Kong fixed telecommunications market was liberalized, Wharf T&T has continually sought to upgrade its services and deliver competitive products at competitive prices to Hong Kong businesses and consumers.

Wharf T&T is a member of The Wharf Group, one of the largest groups of companies in Hong Kong. The Wharf Group also owns i-CABLE Communications Limited, the No. 1 Television Station in Hong Kong for news, movies and sports, as well as being a leading Internet access service provider.

For further information about both Wharf T&T and The Wharf Group, please visit the Wharf T&T website at www.wharftt.com.

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