[bangkokpost] Consumer groups are pledging a new Southeast Asia-wide battle against unfair business practices by telecom giants.
The activists, led by a non-profit consumer network, the Southeast Asian Consumer Council (SEA-CC), wants to force governments to improve access to internet and mobile phone services.
They were speaking at the close of a three-day conference held in parallel with the annual meeting of Asean telecommunications regulators here.
"Telecommunications is a transnational issue important enough for regulators to hold such an annual meeting, which is always well attended by business," said Jiraporn Limpananont, SEA-CC's chairwoman.
Regional cooperation among activists was vital for getting consumers a better deal, she said. The meeting drew more than 50 consumer advocates from eight countries - Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and Spain. They found consumers have many problems in common.
These include billing inaccuracies, unfair charges, spam messages via mobile phones and spam emails, and difficulties in settling disputes.
Consumers, especially those in developing nations, have been offered poor quality services such as limited network coverage, calls which fall off the network, and slow delivery of messages.
Indah Suksmaningsih, of the Indonesian Consumers' Organisation, said consumers were also forced to receive unwanted marketing messages from operators and other businesses.
Saree Aongsomwang, secretary-general of Thailand's Foundation for Consumers, said activists would work together to demand basic standards in telecommunications services for the region.
"We'll demand businesses, especially international ones, offer customers in Asean countries the same standard that consumers in developed countries get, and to be more socially responsible," she said.
Consumers could lose out when Asean free trade agreements come into effect early next year, said Seah Seng Choon of Singapore.
"Whole markets in certain areas including e-commerce will open as a result of the change, and businesses will be able to do whatever they want without barriers," he said.
Fight looms with telecoms giants over unfair trade