Phone bills could fall for 3 million people

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Phone bills could fall for 3 million people

The government predicts approximately 3 million people will see their phone bills drastically drop with SK Telecom joining the two other major mobile carriers to offer billing plans through which customers get unlimited free calls on both mobile phones and landlines for less than 30,000 won ($27.50) a month.

During a meeting Tuesday at the National Assembly with ruling Saenuri Party lawmakers, officials from the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, including minister Choi Yang-hee, said the change could save about 700 billion won, which would otherwise be charged to the 3 million users currently on high-priced plans offering an unnecessarily large amount of data.

Until recently, to get unlimited free calls, customers had to subscribe to a policy that cost at least 51,000 won per month.

With the new billing plans, that burden has gone down to 29,900 won.

The more expensive plans were considered tough on people in businesses that demand voice calls for services like sales and delivery. Call center operators were also affected, ministry officials said.

While KT and LG U+ only need to report changes to their billing plans, the nation’s No. 1 carrier SK Telecom needs government approval for changes made to billing plans because it has a majority market share.

“Now people across the country will only need to pay between 20,000 won and 30,000 won per month to have any amount of phone conversations, between landlines and mobile phones, or between two mobile phones,” Saenuri Rep. Won Yoo-chul said at the meeting.

“We expect at least 3 million people, particularly those who frequently need to have phone conversations for their work, like delivery men, chauffeurs, salespersons or housewives, will see their phone bills reduced by about 700 billion won [in one year].”

The government added that under a new measure, all telecommunications providers will offer discounts on mobile phone bills, regardless of a user’s mandatory contract term.

So far, customers in Korea must sign a two-year contract to get a discounted mobile phone bill, which requires them to use the phone for at least two years.

Under that contract, if they wanted to buy a new phone or contract with another telecommunication services provider within two years, they had to pay a penalty based on the duration of the use of the phone.

“So far, we could get a discount on phone bills when we sign up for the mandatory membership,” Won said. “However, the new measures will reduce the mobile phone bills of about 2.3 million people by 360 billion won a year.”

Cutting mobile phone bills was one of the major pledges of President Park Geun-hye during her campaign in 2012.

Two years ahead of the initial target year of 2017, the government said it has succeeded in keeping the president’s promise.


BY KIM HEE-JIN [kim.heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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