Smart, Digitel ask CA to stop NTC refund order

by Alvin Elchico, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 27 2014 03:35 PM | Updated as of May 27 2014 11:35 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Telecommunications companies are asking the Court of Appeals to stop the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) from implementing its order to refund excessive text message charges.

Smart Communications and Digitel filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for review with an application for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction to the NTC order.

Globe Telecom, on the other hand, sought a 15-day extension to file a petition for review with the CA.

According to Digitel's petition, the CA should issue a 60-day TRO directing NTC to cease and desist from enforcing its refund order.

Digitel is also asking the CA to issue a writ of preliminary injunction directing NTC not to implement the order. It also asked the CA to reverse the order and declare the refund order null and void.

NTC director Edgardo Cabarios said it is the right of the telcos to bring the matter to court.

When asked if this is disadvantageous to the consumers, Cabarios says the NTC cannot do anything because based on their rules, an NTC order cannot be carried out if it is appealed in the courts.

Cabarios added the NTC is confident of winning the case all the way up to the Supreme Court.

According to Cabarios, despite the final refund order, telcos continue to charge P1 for a regular text to other networks. This despite the NTC order to lower the interconnection fee to P0.15 per regular text from the previous P0.35/text. This means, the P1/regular text should have gone down to P0.80/text.

As of May 2014, the estimated refund now amounts to a little over P7 billion for 880 days from the refund order issued in December 2011.

Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares said his group will file a petition to intervene at the Court of Appeals to block the move of telcos to have the NTC refund order stopped.

He added the telcos should accede and implement the refund since the interconnection charge was actually slashed by P0.20/regular text which means that the charge per text to other networks should also be lower by P0.20.

Colmenares said the NTC must enforce the decision if a TRO is not issued, although the Commission says a mere appeal will be enough to halt the implementation of the order.

The NTC can also increase its penalty to thousands of pesos from the current P200 a day.

Colmenares does not believe that the rise in penalty, which was set in 1936, can only be done through a law. He insisted the NTC has enough regulatory powers to raise the penalties on erring telcos.