Another in the continuing chapter of probably-half-a-scam and complicating-life-for-foreigners enterprises in Taiwan.
Many coffee shops and McDonald’s, etc. are now offering wireless Internet service. To use the service, you have to buy a card (with a username and password on it). These cards are offered for 1 hour, 3 hours or a full month’s unlimited use. Since 1 hour is NT$50, 3 hours NT$100 and the full month NT$600, and there is a McDonald’s and a really nice comfortable coffee shop right next to my house, I opted for the monthly. I had used the hourly cards before with no problem.
Problem is, you buy the monthly card (for cash, of course), and you are given a username and password. You then cannot log-on using the information. The screen automatically re-directs you to an error screen for “easy-up.net” (pathetic – they haven’t even got their own error screen set up on the site – and don’t bother clicking the “English” link, it doesn’t work – and don’t bother trying to enter your username and password on their homepage like the directions say – there’s no place to do it). You are then directed, through a haze of Chinese text which is not very well organized, to download their “hui yuan [member]” application form. This form, of course, wants all your personal data – name, address, cell phone, regular phone, fax, ID number, e-mail…it goes on and on. They also “require” a copy of your ID. This sounds like shameless data-mining to me. I get enough spam as it is, not to mention those annoying unsolicited text messages on my cell phone from random companies.
Being a nasty sort with a bit of extra free time on my hands this week, I phoned up their “customer service” number, where I was greeted by a chipper young man surnamed, not surprisingly, “Chen”. Mr. Chen was happy to read his script introducing the product. It’s odd that this script did not mention any of the “benefits” of becoming a “member” (other than the fact that that is the only way you can use the card!) I allowed as how I wanted to use the product I had just purchased. Mr. Chen told me that the law of the ROC required them to collect this information in order to let people use the service.
So, I have some questions:
How is monthly (single month, not month-to-month) service any different from hourly, that there would be different legal requirements?
How is pre-paid wireless Internet access different from pre-paid cell phone cards, that there would be such a requirement for one but not hte other? The whole reason things are pre-paid is so that undesirables with lots of money (foreigners!) can use the service at a much higher rate than the general population. There’s no risk to the company, so they have no need to get one’s personal information.
Being an inquisitive person, I asked Mr. Chen precisely WHICH law it was that required this documentation. He told me confidently that it had to do with the telecommunications authorities. I asked him to fax me a copy of the law, and he agreed immediately (sounded like he had it sitting there) but oddly enough, the fax had not arrived after 12 hours.
Mr. Chen was likewise very disappointed (and somewhat taken aback) when he wanted my personal information and I refused to give it to him, saying that I would call him back if the fax did not go through. (It’s an 800 number, so I say run up their phone bill on this one.)
I’ve heard of true monthly mobile Internet (on an account you set up with the company) through one of the cell phone companies (not Taiwan Dageda nor Chunghwa, but I forget which one). Anyone successfully gotten THAT service? Obviously they’ll want a guarantor (which doesn’t make sense for a service that is flat-fee for unliminted use and has no potential for abuse, does it? ) but…