SC urged to order telcos to refund P7-B to subscribers

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 19 2017 07:56 PM

Party-list group Bayan Muna, through its leaders Neri Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate, urged the Supreme Court (SC) to order telecom firms to refund their subscribers at least P7-billion for alleged excessive short message service (SMS) charges.

In a petition filed on Monday, Colmenares and Zarate asked the high court to reverse a Court of Appeals (CA) ruling that thumbed down the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) order in 2011 for the reduction of the interconnection charge for SMS between two separate networks to a rate not higher than 15-centavos per SMS from 35-centavos.

Colmenares and Zarate are intervenors in the case.

In the assailed decision, the appellate court ruled that “[t]he reduction of interconnection charge does not result in the lowering of the SMS retail rate."

Petitioners asserted that as of May 2014, Digitel Mobile Philippines, Inc., Globe Telecommunications, Inc., and Smart Communications, Inc. owed their subscribers P7.2-billion.

“NTC said that there are about two-billion text messages sent by subscribers of Globe, Smart and Sun Cellular every day. Ten percent of these, or 200 million texts, are charged Php1.00 per text message. Of these, 20% or 20 million are off-net text messages charged with interconnection charges.

"Thus, the estimated unlawful amount collected by all three telecommunications companies from its subscribers for overcharged text message, is about Php8 Million a day,” the petition read.

Petitioners argued that "the [CA] committed reversible errors” in its ruling.

Petitioners explained the reduction of SMS retail rate was a “necessary consequence” of the lowering of the interconnection charge.

"Since the interconnection charge is a function of cost, it forms part of the price or the SMS retail rate for services provided to SMS subscribers interconnecting with another network subscriber,” the petition read.

"It is absurd for respondents to claim that while interconnection charge costs them billions in expenses they are so altruistic as to absorb these losses and not pass them on to the consumers.”

The petition urged the high court to immediately order the telecoms to implement the NTC order to institute the corresponding reduction of SMS rates from P1 to P0.80; return to subscribers the amount corresponding to the decrease in SMS retail rate effective on the day set by the 2011 NTC Order including the legal interest; and pay the commensurate penalty for every day the telcos refused to heed the NTC order.