Press Release
February 19, 2010

Enrile moves for CA reconsideration of cellphone ruling

Senate President Enrile is saddened by the recent decision of the Court of Appeals granting Smart and Globe a temporary relief from the implementation of the 6 seconds per pulse scheme imposed by the National Telecommunications Commission as the default billing system of telcos. Prior to the issuance of the NTC memorandum circular, telcos adopted the one-minute minimum billing scheme.

Said memorandum circular took effect on December 6, 2009 for calls within the same network service provider, while the same rule for calls between networks took effect on December 16.

"Instead of complying, Globe Telecom and Smart Communications tried to work their way around the NTC regulation by requiring their subscribers to use prefixes, which means affixing a prescribed number to the user's mobile phone number, before he or she can avail the new and much lower rates," Enrile said.

The NTC clarified, however, that the telcos should implement a default billing system and not merely use prefixes, under promotional schemes, as a way to comply with Memorandum Circular (MC) 05-07-2009. Following a series of public hearings conducted by the Senate Committees on the issue of disappearing load, the NTC issued the said MC entitled, "GUIDELINES ON UNIT OF BILLING OF MOBILE VOICE SERVICE" , and a number of circulars that were intended to rectify and introduce reforms in the regulatory policies of the NTC to address compelling needs of the consuming public .

The per-pulse billing scheme is the latest of a string of new regulations for telcos in response to issues that were presented during the Senate hearings, including the "vanishing" prepaid credits, dropped calls, and spam text messages, among others.

NTC imposed the per-pulse billing so that subscribers are charged only for the time consumed. Under the new scheme, calls made within the same network should be charged with a flag-down rate of not more than P3.00 for the first 12 seconds or two pulses. In the first minute, each succeeding six-second pulse will be charged up to P0.56. Every pulse in the succeeding minutes will be charged up to P0.75. Charges for calls should not exceed P7.50 per minute, the highest prevailing rate among telcos.

Globe Telecom, Inc., Smart Communication, and Digital Telecommunications Phils., Inc., the operator of Sun Cellular, have all filed petitions against the new per billing pulse scheme, claiming that the memorandum circular violates the constitutional right of private companies to determine prices. Telcos also claim the new scheme did not go through "due process."

It can be recalled that on June 2, 2009 Senate President Enrile delivered his privilege speech as a victim of the "vanishing load" practice/system. Since then, he has taken the cudgels for the millions of cellphone users who are being robbed off their hard-earned money and are being shortchanged by these big and powerful telcos.

Enrile stated that the grant of the TRO serves as a big blow to the millions of cellphone users who have been crying for government intervention against the inefficient and high cost of telecommunication services in the country.

" I have been informed by the Chairman of the NTC that they have filed for a motion for reconsideration. As your spokesperson in the Senate, I am planning to file a motion for intervention in behalf of the millions of cellphone users who deserve to be protected from exorbitant rates and unfair business practices of unscrupulous businessmen, raking in windfall profits at the expense of our less privileged consumers", Enrile laments.

Enrile also added that telcos cannot question the authority of the regulator, which is NTC, even in a deregulated business environment because they are public utilities. " These telcos are operating under a contract drafted by Congress. They cannot be totally free from regulation by the government intended for the protection of the public," Enrile declared.

It is also in this light that Senate President Enrile has sought the immediate passage of the NTC Reorganization bill. By fixing the term of office of the NTC Commissioners, they will be free from undue pressure from the telcos themselves and other interest groups and they can freely implement programs and regulations that will promote the welfare of our consumers, while also balancing the interests of the industry players, says Enrile.

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