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Battle over per-pulse phone billing may reach SC

Rappler.com
The phone companies and their regulator may bring they legal battle over the per-pulse mobile call billings all the way to the Supreme Court after the appellate court denied both parties' motions for reconsideration

MANILA, Philippines – The phone companies and their regulator may bring they legal battle over the per-pulse mobile call billings all the way to the Supreme Court after the appellate court denied both parties’ motions for reconsideration.

In a January 19 promulgation, the Court of Appeals denied both the request of National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to implement its order to the phone companies to implement a per-pulse or per-6-second billing scheme, and the request of the phone companies, which are contesting the proposed billing method.

“The motions for reconsideration and the motion for partial reconsideration filed by CURE (Connectivity Unlimited Resources Enterprises, Inc.), Smart Communications Inc., Globe Telecom Inc., and Innove Communications Inc., respectively, and the motion for partial reconsideration filed by the NTC are denied for lack of merit,” the 11-page decision signed by associate justice Hakim Abdulwahid stated.

NTC commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba, when sought for comment, said the agency may elevate the case before the SC. “I haven’t read or receive a copy of the decision so I really can’t comment. But as always, it is an option for us to elevate the case to a higher court.”

Maximum of P7.50 per minute

The NTC wants the phone companies to charge mobile phone call bills based on length of calls per 6-seconds (one pulse) instead of the prevailing per-minute method.

To implement this way back in 2009, the NTC issued Memorandum Circular No. 05-07-2009, which imposes the following rates for intra-network and inter-network calls:

  • flag down rate of P3 for the first 12 seconds (when the call is being connected)
  • P0.56 for every succeeding 6-second pulse within the first minute of the call
  • P0.75 charged for every succeeding pulse

This order was supposed to assure phone subscribers that they will not be billed over P7.50 per minute vis-a-vis the P6 average costs of the telcos.

The CA recognized NTC’s mandate to implement a default billing system on a per-pulse basis, but questioned NTC’s computation of the imposed rates. It also said the phone companies failed to submit documents supporting their cost figures. 

“This Court carefully perused the records and did not find any basis for the NTC’s imposition of such rates and its setting of limits on the total of the same,” said the CA. “The NTC did not give any justification for its disposition that the flag-down rate for the first two pulses shall in no case exceed P3, and that the total of the flag-down rate and the sum of the 8 remaining pulses for the first minute shall in no case exceed the prevailing rate.”

Pre-fixes

The phone companies had contested the NTC’s order, citing difficulties in implementing the proposed billing system in their backend.

They said the NTC’s order is equivalent to price-fixing which is illegal since the industry is deregulated. They made an appeal at the CA in December 2010 after the NTC snubbed their requests not to push through with the per-pulse billing.

“If both parties accept the decision of the CA then the telcos will file for a new application as the court ordered. If it is not acceptable to any of us or to the NTC then the case can be elevated to the Supreme Court,” said Smart lawyer Roy Ibay in a separate interview. 
 
The telcos maintained they should use prefixes instead of a default billing system.
 
Smart had proposed a flag down rate of P3 for the first two pulses or 12 seconds and P0.31 for Talk N Text and P0.43 for Smart on the succeeding pulses of the first minute. For succeeding minutes, P0.55 (for  Talk ‘N Text) and P0.65 (for Smart Buddy, Smart Gold and Infinity) per pulse will be charged.

However, the subscribers should use the following prefixes (Smart Gold and Infinity: *5433, Smart Buddy: *5434, Talk and ‘N Text: *2255), plus the number being called.
 
Globe, meanwhile, said its network already imposes a per-second charging for Globe-Globe/TM and TM-TM/Globe when subscribers dial 232 plus the 10-digit Globe or TM number. – Rappler.com

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