SC asked: Order telcos to refund P7-B text overcharge
A petition has been filed at the Supreme Court on Tuesday asking that it affirm the ruling of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) ordering a P7-billion refund and reduced text messaging fees.
In a 45-page petition for review on certioari, partylist group Bayan Muna through Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate and its former Representative Neri Colmenares urged the high court to reverse the Court of Appeals’ June 2016 decision dismissing NTC’s 2012 order.
The 2012 order by the NTC directed mobile phone companies to immediately refund and cut text messaging charges to P80 from P1.00.
Covered by the order were Digital Philippines Inc. which operates Sun Cellular, Globe Telecom and Smart Communications.
In the said order, the NTC also directed the three telecom companies to refund or reimburse their subscribers these excess charge of P0.20 per off-net SMS from the effectivity of Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 02-10-2011 in October 2011 until fully settled, by crediting the load of prepaid subscribers or effecting the refund through the respective bills for postpaid subscribers.
NTC Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 02-10-2011 orders the lowering of the interconnection charge between networks from Php0.35 to not more than Php0.15 which the telco companies acceded to.
But despite the adjustment, the NTC discovered that subscribers continue to charge subscribers with P1.00 for each regular off-net text message.
The appeals court’s former 6th Division, in its June 2016 decision set aside the orders issued by the NTC dated Nov. 20, 2012 and May 2014 requiring telecommunication companies Globe, Smart Communications Inc. and Digitel which operates Sun Cellular to refund P7-billion “excess” charges charged to consumers from 2012 to 2014 for text messages.
BACKSTORY: NTC orders telcos to refund text overcharge
In its June 27, 2016 decision, the CA ruled in favor of the telco companies and struck down the orders of the NTC “for being bereft of legal basis and for having been rendered in utter disregard of the requirements of due process.”
It held that to penalize the three telco companies for not lowering the SMS retail rate “will be the height of injustice and unfairness” considering that it is not mandated under MC Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 02-10-2011.
It added that “the demands of justice and fair play should not be relegated to the background for the sake of popularity.”
The appeals court added that NTC’s order has no legal basis and violated the due process clause of the Constitution.
“From the TELCOs‘ refusal to return the amounts it has unduly collected from their subscribers which consist a huge chunk of the estimated amount of Php7.28 Billion as of end of May 2014 and its portion of the estimated daily profit of Php8 Million for this over- collection, the penalty of Php200.00 a day is ridiculously too little, to small in comparison to the magnitude of the illegal act of collection that the TELCOS are doing and the huge amounts of money that they are illegally raking in from their subscribers,” petitioners said.
Petitioners said no due process was denied because hearing started as early as 2008.
“In this case, 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 group said.
The telco companies earlier said the NTC’s refund order will put the into jeopardy the financial viabilitty of the entire telecommunications industry and the public will likely suffer if it is not enjoined. /idl, je
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