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“No” to Cutting Service Charges While Disregarding Consumer Protection

“No” to Cutting Service Charges While Disregarding Consumer Protection

Posted December. 12, 2004 22:52,   


Mobile carriers keep providing up-to-date mobile phone services and saying, “We are leading the information age.”

Many consumers, however, argue that they were taken in by such services and have suffered damage.

A middle school student Park (14), a subscriber to LG Telecom, was scolded by her parents because recently the Internet service charge on her mobile phone exceeded 60,000 won per month. “It said the phone charge was 2.5 won per packet, but I just used the phone without knowing what that means,” said Park with a tearful face.

With new services come increasing cases of privacy infringement, such as personal information leakage.

Mrs. Choi (32), a homemaker who is a subscriber to SK Telecom, was shocked to receive a short text message on her mobile phone early December. It was from an utter stranger who asked her to become an Internet buddy. “It happened because I posted articles on the Internet,” said Choi. “Without my knowledge, my personal realm is being exposed as personal contents on the Internet are recklessly linked to the mobile Internet.”

Mobile carriers tend to focus on cures rather than prevention when it comes to consumer protection. KTF belatedly came up with measures to impose strict control over customer information references by its workers after the information of its members was leaked to a criminal ring in October this year.

“Measures to protect consumer interests should come before high-end services, and more information about service charges should be given to users in order to protect them,” said Yeo Chun-yeop, assistant director at the Korea Consumer Protection Board.

Mobile carriers nearly withdrew their initial investment costs through mobile phone bills, but they have not cut basic service charges since September. All subscribers must pay the basic charge even though they do not use their phone.

A report presented to the National Assembly by the Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) shows that the basic service charge in Korea is two times higher than that of Finland, Denmark, and Norway, whose mobile phone penetration rate is very high.

Domestic mobile carriers have argued that they can no longer cut the basic charge since initial facility investment costs were too high. Nevertheless, three major carriers earned more than 25 trillion won from collecting charges between 1998 and 2003 while spending 12 trillion won in facility investment, according to the MIC.

Experts and consumers demand the cut in the basic charge based on such information, but the carriers are holding out that the charge cannot be cut below the current level of 12,000 to 13,000 won.

“The basic service charge is approved by the MIC, so we cannot do anything about it,” said SK Telecom. KTF and LG Telecom also explained that latecomers would suffer from worsening profits if the basic service charge went down.

Wi-Yong Jung viyonz@donga.com