Friday, June 21, 2024

House ICT panel hits NTC?s ineptitude on prepaid credit issues

At a recent hearing for the proposed ?Prepaid Load Protection Act?, the ICT committee of the House of Representatives lambasted the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) for its incompetence in dealing with the issues of disappearing prepaid credits and expiration of prepaid load.

The House ICT committee conducting hearing on the proposed Prepaid Protection Act. At left is committee chair Victor Yap

Tarlac representative Victor Yap, chair of the ICT committee, noted that the NTC has not been able to effectively implement Memorandum Circular 03-07-2009, which imposed a minimum validity period for load credits of prepaid subscribers. The order was issued in 2009.

?I wish to know what the NTC has done to ensure the protection of prepaid load subscribers. NTC had been remiss. There has been no single case against telco for the disappearance or illegal expiration of prepaid load. We need the NTC to properly exercise its disciplinary role lest people will suffer,? Yap said.

The committee was apprised that the NTC, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), have already issued last December 2017 a joint memorandum circular requiring telcos to extend the expiration date of their prepaid loads to one year.

The circular was meant to be effective on January 5, 2018. However, Globe Telecom and Smart Communications requested that its implementation be deferred to June due to some technical issues that they need to address.

But Yap urged the NTC to have the political will to compel the telcos to expedite the implementation of the order.

?The longer this situation drags on, the longer our people will suffer. The NTC must exercise its full authority under the law to ensure its implementation. I?m hopeful that the telcos, with their technical capability will be able to comply with this order at the soonest time possible,? said Yap.

Quezon City representative Winston Castelo echoed the statement of Yap, saying the telcos do not need six months to calibrate their system.

?Why would it take another six months for the circular to be effective? This puzzles us. It can only take telcos a few minutes to increase or impose fine on loads. Why can?t they do the same to remove the expiration? This is just a matter of using algorithms and computers. Modern technology would allow them to do that,? Castelo said.

The DTI, however, admitted that the circular is just a temporary solution and that they may still the need legislation to impose penalties on the local telcos.

The ICT committee also tackled during the hearing the issue of vanishing load. It noted that certain value added services are automatically being charged by some telcos without the subscribers actually availing of them.

Buhay party-list representative Mariano Michael Velarde Jr. said that he himself lost his prepaid load credits without actually using them.

?I have continually experienced losing my prepaid load for reasons that are unclear to me. For example, I get charged for my Internet usage even if I was already subscribed to an unlimited data promo. This should not happen. Our people must not be charged for services that they do not benefit from,? Velarde added.

Yap declared that the committee will also look in to the issue of vanishing load and unwanted value added service.

?This issue on vanishing load is very alarming. This is plain and simple an act of theft by the telcos or those that allegedly provide value added services. This is a serious affront to the public and we assure you that this will be dealt with severely,? Yap said.

Yap also proposed to mandate the local telcos to issue e-receipt to every subscriber after they have completely consumed their load. This way, he said ordinary people will have a means to understand how their prepaid load was used up and how they are being charged.

?The telcos have to be transparent and accountable with their dealings. Post-paid subscribers are provided a monthly statement of accounts for every transaction they had using their mobile numbers. I don?t see any reason why we can?t have the same system for prepaid load subscribers,? Yap said.

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