House ICT panel to consolidate bills banning expiry of pre-paid load

The House committee on information and communications technology (ICT) is readying a consolidated bill that would prohibit expiration period for pre-paid load.

House ICT committee chair Victor Yap (left) opening a recent hearing in Congress

For this purpose, the committee chaired by Rep. Victor Yap has created a technical working group to put together in one measure the salient points of nine bills all seeking to stop the practice of telecom firms of imposing expiration period in pre-paid loads.

Subjects of the TWG discussion include House Bills 2333, 2447, 2604, 2872, 3268, 4654, and 5109 authored by Reps. Carlos Cojuangco, Arthur Yap, Vilma Santos-Recto, Victor Yap, Carmelo Lazatin, Winston Castelo, and Bernadette Herrera-Dy, respectively.

The bills seek to prohibit, with corresponding penalties, the act of setting expiration periods on the validity of pre-paid phone load cards.

Likewise, the various measures disallow forfeiture of unused load credits on an active pre-paid phone account via pre-paid call and text card or electronic transfer.

In addition, the bills prohibit telecom firms from refusing to give a refund to any pre-paid subscriber whose load credits were forfeited without any valid cause.

In December last year, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) issued a joint memorandum extending the validity of prepaid loads for one year regardless of the amount.

Before this, validity period of pre-paid phone load depends on the amount purchased.

But the DICT agreed to delay the implementation of one-year expiration for prepaid load worth less than P300 to give more time for telecommunication companies to adjust to the new regulation.

However, the proposed measures under consideration by the TWG want to empower consumers by allowing them to use prepaid load cards without limited validity.

Among the proposed penalties being considered for violation of the proposed law include a fine of P100,000 to P1 million, or imprisonment of two to six years, or both upon the discretion of the court.

The bills mandate the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), in coordination with the NTC, to ensure the proper and adequate information dissemination of the contents and benefits of the law to the public, especially to its intended beneficiaries.

The proposed measures delegate to the NTC the task of formulating the necessary rules and regulations to implement the provisions of the proposed legislation.

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