MANILA, Philippines – Leftist group Bayan Muna on Tuesday, September 19, filed a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) to compel telecommunications companies to return to subscribers P17.7 billion worth of overpriced text message rates.
Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate and former representative Neri Colmenares filed the petition seeking to reverse a June 2016 decision of the Court of Appeals which stopped the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) from implementing a text rate deduction and consequent refund order.
The petition covers Globe Telecom, Smart Communications Incorporated, and Digitel Philippines Incorporated, which is the operating company of Sun Cellular.
NTC earlier ordered the 3 companies to reimburse subscribers of excess charges of P0.20 per text message either by load credits for prepaid subscribers or deductions in bills for postpaid users.
In 2011, the NTC directed the companies to reduce the interconnection charge from P0.35 to P0.15. The adjustment was expected to reduce the text fees, but NTC found that subscribers continued to be charged P1.00 per text.
NTC’s refund order was stopped by the CA in June 2016 “for being bereft of legal basis and for having been rendered in utter disregard of the requirements of due process.” (READ: NTC seeks SolGen’s help on SMS refund case)
Basing on financial reports of the companies, Computer Professionals Union (CPU) said Smart, Globe, and Sun overcharged by P17.7 billion as of 2014.
“Respondents claim that interconnection charges do not form part of the SMS retail rate and lowering interconnection charge will not result in the lowering of the rates imposed on subscribers. This incredible claim lacks factual basis and should not have been used as the Court‘s basis for overturning the NTC Decision,” Bayan Muna representatives said in their petition.
Bayan Muna challenged the companies’ claim that they are suffering from losses from interconnection charges. The companies earlier said that refunding billions worth of text fees would risk their financial viabilities, which would negatively affect the service it provides to the public.
“Instead of relying merely on the respondents’ incredible claim, the Court should have asked these telcos to prove this claim of spending billions to connect users to each other without charging these users for the interconnection,” the petition said.
Bayan Muna also disputed part of the CA’s decision, which says there was no due process in lowering interconnection charges, and the consequent lowering of text rates. Hearings had been conducted since 2008, said Bayan Muna.
“The telcos were afforded the fair and reasonable opportunity to ventilate their postures with respect the matter of lowering of text message rates as a necessary consequence of the lowering of the interconnection rates. That there was no hearing conducted regarding the reduction of the SMS retail rate‖ is inaccurate, considering that several opportunities were given to the telcos to present their side,” the petition said. – Rappler.com
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