Many consumers will enter into a contract with a fixed term with operators when subscribing to telecommunications services. When signing up a contract, you may note that apart from a service commencement date to be chosen by you, the operator may designate a bill cycle date for your contract which may not be the same as the service commencement date.
"Bill cycle date" means a particular day in a month assigned by the operator for the start of each "bill cycle"; while "bill cycle" means each consecutive period in which the customer will be billed for use of telecommunications service under a contract. For example, an operator may, in light of its operational needs, designate the 15th day of each month as the bill cycle date for the telecommunications service contract of a particular customer. The bill cycle of this particular contract will then cover the period between the 15th day of each month and the 14th day of the following month.
Due to operational constraints, operators in general are unable to flexibly designate any one day in a month as the bill cycle date. The service commencement date and the first bill cycle date thus may not be the same. Under such circumstances, some operators may charge the customer a service fee, on pro rata basis, either based on the number of days of service that has been used or the service usage amount, within the period between the service commencement date and the day before the first bill cycle date. For example, if the service commencement date of a contract is on 8 January and the bill cycle date designated by the service operator is on the 15th day of each month, the operator may charge the customer for the service usage between 8 January and 14 January on a pro rata basis.
You are advised to read the relevant terms and conditions in the contract carefully or contact the operators to enquire about the charging method for this period.
Likewise, as the expiry date of the fixed term and the last day of the final bill cycle may not be the same, you are also advised to pay attention to how the service in this period will be charged. For the example cited above, a customer has signed up a contract with a one-year fixed term which expires on 7 January of the following year. If the customer intends to terminate service with the operator on that day, i.e. 7 January, he/she should be mindful as to whether the operator will charge him/her a service fee up to 7 January on a pro rata basis, or a full monthly fee up to 14 January (i.e. the last date of the final bill cycle).
You are advised to read the relevant terms and conditions in the contract carefully or contact the relevant operator to enquire about the charging method for this period.
Although operators may not be able to allocate a bill cycle date flexibly due to operational constraints, a customer, before signing up a telecommunications service contract, is advised to consult the operators as to whether he/she may choose the bill cycle date, and choose the bill cycle date as the service commencement date of the contract as far as practicable.
The Industry Code of Practice for Telecommunications Service Contracts ("Industry Code") was revised in October 2014 and has been effective since 1 May 2015. The new provisions require operators to state in the contract that, if the target commencement date of the contract does not align with the first bill cycle date, then the first bill cycle date must be clearly stated in the contract (or should be communicated to the customers as soon as practicable). Also, the contract must set out clearly and in reasonable detail how customers will be charged for the services in the periods between the service commencement date and the first bill cycle date, as well as between the expiry date of the fixed term and the last date of the final bill cycle.
Please refer to the Industry Code for details.