ON May 7 this year, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), using stern language, denied the motion for reconsideration filed by mobile operator corporations against a decision it made in 2012 ordering the telcos to reduce the cost of text messages from P1 to P0.80.
This decision against Globe, Smart and Sun earned the NTC heaps of praise from the public.
The decision also ordered the telcos to pay a fine of P200 a day from December 1, 2011 until the date that a corporation begins complying.
It also orders the telcos to refund or reimburse subscribers the excess of 20 centavos charged for every for SMS text message priced at P1 for “offnet” messages.
In the denial of the appeal of Smart Communications, Globe Telecom, and Digitel Mobile Philippines, the NTC said the telcos did not present new arguments that would compel it to revise its November 2012 decision. The NTC also upbraided the telcos for disobeying its order to submit to the telecommunications industry regulatory body copies of the documents, records and reports pertaining to their subscribers’ “off-net” SMS.
Yesterday, the militant organization Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, which is nicknamed Bayan for short, issued a statement attacking the UNLI-overcharging of Globe, Smart and Sun and called on the NTC to be more strict and carry out its order to the telcos to refund a total of more than P7.6B for their overcharged SMS.
Bayan recalled that since December 1, 2011, the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) has required telecommunications companies Globe, Smart and Sun to refund 20 centavos for every P1 standard SMS sent to other networks to their mobile subscribers. This is commonly known as the interconnection charge. But until now, Bayan correctly claims, telcos have continued to refuse to do NTC’s order and are are still collecting P1 per regular SMS.
Bayan said that “according to the refund tracker (http://www.cp-union.com/sites/www.cp-union.com/files/sms-refund-monitor/sms_refund.html) of the Computer Professionals Union (CPU) that shows real-time figures of the actual amount that needs to be refunded by telcos to their subscribers, the refund already amounts to almost P7.7B today and is continuing to increase including their fines for non-compliance on the refund” by P571,976.
From these figures, it appears that Globe, Smart and Sun should refund every user with load credits worth P89.
Bayan criticized NTC’s “lack of political will” to enforce its own order. This is why consumers and other groups have been angered and held a demonstration at the NTC office in Quezon City yesterday. Among the major groups that joined the picket-protest were TXTPOWER, AGHAM and Bayan Metro Manila.
We agree with Bayan Metro Manila’s chairman Raymond Palatino who bewailed the inaction or powerlessness of the NTC in getting the telcos to obey its ruling.
He also said, and we agree, that “if the NTC and the administration of President Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd are really serious about unburdening the already loaded shoulders of the people, then it must do something strong and decisive to oblige telcos to refund what they owe the subscribers.” He also recommended that “the penalty of Globe, Smart and Sun be increased from P200 to P200,000 per day until these companies fully comply with the NTC orders and pay their obligations.”
He warned that with Filipino texters now numbering 107 million, there is a likelihood that there will be more protests and possibly stronger expressions of outrage nationwide.
This, we believe, is a warning the NTC and the Aquino government should take to heart.