Militant groups demand refund on SMS fees from telcos

By Alvin Elchico, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 05 2011 04:37 PM | Updated as of Dec 06 2011 03:13 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Militant groups are demanding a refund from the country's leading telecommunications companies for the days they refused to implement the order of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to lower regular text rates.

The NTC earlier ordered mobile operators - Smart, Globe Telecom and Sun Cellular - to cut regular text rates to P0.80 from P1. But the companies did not comply with the order.

Bayan Muna members trooped to the NTC on Monday, lambasting the regulator for not being able to implement its own ruling.

Jessie Barcelon, a Bayan-Muna community organizer, said based on the  90 million subscribers of which 10% do not avail of text promos, the three telcos need to refund some P111 million to 9 million subscribers.

Another consumer group txtm8 asked, "Who is stronger in the Philippines - the NTC or telcos?" The group insisted the reduction of SMS fees was supposed to be a simple reform measure.

ABS-CBN News called and sent text questions to the 3 telcos but none have so far answered.

The NTC, through common carrier director Edgardo Cabarios, expects a final ruling on the matter by Wednesday.

On the issue of seeking a refund, Cabarios claimed the group must file a case against the telcos. He noted it will be a long and tedious process.

Cabarios claimed the NTC will stand by its earlier interpretation that the reduction of the interconnection charges should result in the lowering of text rates to P0.80 from the current P1.00 for regular text message.

But telcos argued that their inter-network rate had already gone down through various promos and bucket packages, with the average text already around P0.10/message.