HKBN fined HK$30,000 for breaking personal data law

September 10, 2015 13:32
Stephen Wong (inset) said he hopes the conviction of HKBN will enhance respect for the privacy of personal data. Photo: HKEJ

Hong Kong Broadband Network Ltd. (HKBN) has become the first company convicted of violating the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance, Ming Pao Daily reported Thursday.

HKBN was fined HK$30,000 (US$3,870) Wednesday for making a sales promotional call to a customer who had requested that his personal data not be used for such purposes. 

Stephen Wong Kai-yi, the new privacy commissioner for personal data, said he hopes the verdict will enhance respect for the privacy of personal data.

Companies must comply with a customer's request to stop using his or her personal data for sales promotional campaigns, Wong said.

Customers were reminded to make requests in writing and retain a copy as evidence, along with the sales promotional messages received afterwards, when filing a complaint to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD).

Deputy privacy commissioner for personal data Fanny Wong Kam-hing said that since the revised ordinance went into effect on April 1, 2013, the PCPD has received 509 complaints relating to use of personal data for direct marketing, of which 45 were passed on to the police for further investigation.

Four other cases are already in the legal process, she said.

An employee surnamed Wong of HKBN phoned a customer surnamed Chan on May 17, 2013, to remind him that his HKBN service contract would expire on November 30 that year.

Magistrate Debbie Ng Chung-yee said it was way too early for HKBN to remind its customer of his service contract's expiry, as the script used by Wong included the words “now that the service contract is almost near its expiry date”.

Ng said she considered a reminder to be timely if it is issued a few weeks to two months before the expiry date.

Such reminders could also be served via phone text messages, emails or letters, she said.

Ng said it is clear that the "reminder" of the contract's expiry was just an opening line and that the main purpose of the call was to solicit contract renewals and introduce service plans.

HKBN associate director Gladys Cheng Kit-yan said the firm is disappointed with the ruling and will lodge an appeal.

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