The Senate on Monday, Feb. 19, approved on third and final reading a bill that would allow consumers to keep their cellphone numbers for life, even if they change service providers or subscription plans.
Senate Bill No. 1636, or the proposed “The Lifetime Cellphone Number Act,” was sponsored and authored by Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, and was passed with 20 affirmative votes, zero negative vote, and no abstention.
Gatchalian said that the bill would primarily require public telecommunications entities in the country to provide consumers with “mobile number portability (MNP),” or the ability to retain one’s existing mobile number even when he or she moves from one service provider to another, or when he or she changes subscription to postpaid to prepaid, or vice versa.
“The bill would give consumers them the freedom to choose the provider that would give the best value for their money without having to lose or change their mobile numbers,” he said.
Under the bill, telecommunications entities who would delay, withhold, refuse or otherwise not deliver the benefits of mobile number portability to a mobile subscriber within “24 hours from the time such subscriber completed his or her porting application,” could be penalized with fines up to P1 million, or with total revocation of their operating franchises.
The telecommunications entities are mandated under the bill to provide consumers with “sufficient and relevant” information on how to avail of the MNP, including application requirements and the porting process.
The Senate bill also included an amendment introduced by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, which would remove the “interconnectivity” fees imposed by telecommunications entities on subscribers for calls and messages across different networks.
Gatchalian said that the bill would address concerns of consumers, “who would rather stick to their current mobile service providers and continue to pay for bad service, rather than face the inconvenience of changing numbers for fear of losing important contacts.”
“The bill would free them from such shackles and allow them to transfer to the telecommunications entity that offers the best customer service, network coverage and quality of service,” he said.
The bill noted that the nationwide MNP system would also promote competition among telecommunications entities, and stimulate them to “provide consumers with the best overall value that they can offer.”
“It will also foster technological innovation that will lead to an even greater demand for telecommunications products and services, and lead to a virtuous cycle of economic growth,” the bill said.
Gatchalian later said that given the expected entry of new players in the local telecommunications industry, cellphone numbers should become an extension of every subscriber’s so-called digital identity, “so that consumer loyalty will not be determined by the fear of losing their numbers but through the dynamism of competition among players.”