Philippine Pre-paid Phone Load Credits

The country’s top telecommunications companies yesterday said they were not ready to comply with a new order issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) that required them to extend the validity of pre-paid phone load credits.

“We’re still trying to digest the impact, as of now on the circulars. We’d like to digest first the circulars and assess our options,” lawyer Roy Ibay, Smart Communications senior manager said during a meeting with a Senate Technical Working Group that was tasked to draw up a proposed legislation seeking to regulate some of the activities of telecom firms.

“To a certain extent, we will make an appeal to them that this will have an impact on us,” Globe Telecoms chief legal counsel Rodolfo Salalima said.

The period of implementing the NTC memorandum circular extending the validity of prepaid load credits is to start on July 19, but Salalima cited citing technical issues that had to be addressed before telecom companies could comply with the circular.

The NTC recently announced their issuance of a memorandum circular imposing an extended validity of cellular phone loads, pulse-rate charging or per-second basis instead of per minute, a prohibition on content providers from sending commercial advertisements to subscribers or the so-called text spams.

NTC chairman Ruel Canubas said that while they will await and study the submission of the service providers’ appeal, telecom firms had no choice but to comply with the new order. “Necessarily they have to compute or adjust the system. But it doesn’t mean they can not comply. That is a guideline, an order from the commission. That’s our order, we have to implement our order,” he said.

Canubas said the firms had the option to seek a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the court to stall the implementation of NTC’s new order. “But as far as we are concerned, once it (TRO) had lapsed, after 15 days, we will implement our new guidelines. Any violation to our guidelines, as the law provides, will be meted out with appropriate penalty or sanction,” he added.

Meanwhile, the NTC yesterday issued a memorandum circular stopping telecom firms and content providers from sending promotional advertisements and other forms of offerings to cellular phone subscribers.

Canubas said the NTC memorandum circular was pursuant to Administrative Order 226 of 2009, prescribing new measures and guidelines to address complaints against unsolicited messages also known as spam.

The new memorandum circular, Canubas said, prohibits telcos from sending such “push messages” as promotional advertisements, surveys and other forms of offerings.

Canubas said the NTC had been swarmed with numerous complaints of deceitful and unwarranted text messages wherein recipient subscribers were eventually charged. The new guidelines issued by the NTC, he said, address all complaints involving text spam or broadcast messages.

Another measure to address similar complaints is a bill sponsored by Catanduanes Rep. Joseph Santiago, chairman of the House committee on information and communications technology, seeking heavier penalties against erring Telcos ranging from P10,000 to P10 million.

The NTC issued last week a memorandum circular mandating telcos to extend the validity period of mobile phone loads or prepaid credits depending on the amount of the load purchased. The new NTC circular will take effect 15 days after its publication in a newspaper of general circulation.

As this developed, An-Waray party-list Rep. Florencio Noel yesterday urged the NTC to compel telcos to issue billing statements for prepaid subscribers for them to enable them to keep track of their load credits.

Noel said the billing would ensure transparency between telcos and their mobile phone subscribers, adding that “text billing” could only work with pre-paid subscribers since post-paid phone users are already covered by a monthly billing statement sent through the “snail mail.”

Noel stressed the “text billing” system would be automatically generated at the instance when the remaining load of the subscriber reaches P5.00.

He said unlike the voice call advisories, which inform cell phone users on their running account balance, the ‘text billing’ would give a detailed breakdown on how the previous cell load was consumed.

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