• Telcos should refund subscribers by at least P7B

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    A lawmaker has urged the National Telecommunications Commission to pay interest on top of the refund of P0.20 per SMS message and increase the fine on telcos that refuse to implement the NTC decision lowering SMS rates to P0.80 from P1.00 since 2011.

    Besides the P7.3 billion refund, he said the telcos should pay P438 million in interest to subscribers, and the daily fine should be increased to P20,000 a day from P200 a day.

    Rep. Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna party-list on Thursday also called on the House of Representatives to prioritize the passage of House Bill 1776 to protect consumers from further overcharging by greedy telcos.

    Meanwhile, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has ordered the three major telecommunication companies in the country to reimburse over P7 billion to their subscribers on text messages.

    “This refund is a result of the vigilance and various protests by the public since 2011, but we have to press our demand further to preempt further delays in the refund. We call on the NTC to strictly impose its order for immediate refund. Aside from the P7.3 billion refund, the telcos should also be ordered to pay legal interest of at least P438 million to the subscribers. After all, the telcos earned hundreds of millions in interest for just depositing the overcharged billions in banks,” said Colmenares, who expressed disgust upon learning that the NTC is not imposing penalties on stubborn telcos.

    “The NTC should also increase its P200 per day fine to P20,000 per day as this is peanuts for the telcos. The fine must be in an amount that would teach these telcos a lesson not to unjustly overcharge subscribers to increase their already super-profits. The telcos made extra profit of at least P8 million per day in the last two years and the P200/day fine is a mere slap on the wrist for them. The fine must be included in the refund to subscribers instead of going to the NTC since it is the public who suffered injury and not the government,” Colmenares pointed out.

    The solon made the call as the NTC ordered the Ayala-led Globe Telecom and Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) units, Smart Communications and Digital Mobile Phil. (Sun Cellular) to slash their short message service (SMS) rate to “other networks” to 80 centavos from P1. This P.20 reduction stems from their Memorandum Circular 02-10-2011.

    “We also call on Speaker Sonny Belmonte of the House of Representatives to prioritize House Bill 1776 which aims to regulate telco rates, require detailed billing of prepaid credits and other service improvements to protect subscribers from another overcharge by greedy telcos” said the senior deputy minority leader.

    “It’s about time we abandon the deregulation policy of government and protect the people’s interest against rapacious corporations,” he added.

    House Bill 1776 titled “An Act Promoting the Rights of Mobile Phone Subscribers by Regulating Prices, Requiring Telecommunication Service Companies to provide Detailed Billing of Prepaid Credits, Number Portability, Lowered Pulse Rate and Other Service Improvements” was filed on July 24, 2014 but has not been tackled by Congress.

    Bayan Muna along with Txtpower led the campaign to have the SMS rates reduced when the order was issued in 2011 but the NTC treated the telcos with kid gloves and waited for more than two years to rule with finality, Colmenares said.

    “The refund and the payment for damages should immediately be implemented by adding credit to the prepaid load of prepaid subscribers and implement the refund through the subscriber billing for postpaid subscribers. There can also be a mechanism for a cash refund if the subscribers demand it,” the solon concluded.

    PNA and Rosalie C. Periabras

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