The three top telecommunications companies in the Philippines now owe their customers roughly P8 billion in excess text messaging fees, a cost that a ranking official of the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) said would continue to rise unless resolved.
“The cost of the refund will continue to increase over time. The rough estimate now is at P8 billion from P7 billion last May,” NTC Director Edgardo R. Cabarios told the BusinessMirror on Thursday.
The estimate represents a 15-percent increase over a period of three months or one quarter.
He noted that the total amount would be based on documents, records and reports of all off-net text transactions charged at P1 each since 2011. The regulator has ordered the three major telcos to submit these documents for verification.
The assumption cost is based on the 40 million off-net texts daily, multiplied to 20 centavos for the excess charge that will be again multiplied to the total days passed since December 1, 2011, when the NTC ordered the lowering of the rate of off-net texts to 80 centavos from P1.
In a separate memo released in the second quarter this year, the regulator upheld its 2011 ruling by deciding against the petitions of Smart Communications Inc., Digitel Mobile Philippines Inc. (Sun Cellular), and Globe Telecom Inc.
The three telcos were ordered in May to lower their off-net rates, pursuant to the 2011 memo, and compensate their subscribers for excess interconnection fees.
This was opposed by the carriers, which separately filed before the appellate court their petitions to overturn the regulator’s decision.
Cabarios said his agency is now awaiting the decision of the Court of Appeals, which issued a 60-day temporary restraining order on the refund case in August.
“We will start planning our subsequent steps on how to execute this once the Court of Appeals issues its verdict on the case,” he explained, adding that his agency has high hopes of winning the case.
The government official added that the refund from Smart, Sun, and Globe would come in the form of load credits for prepaid subscribers and bill rebates for postpaid customers.
The three carriers are also required to pay P160,000 each for not complying to the earlier 2011 ruling.
The cost of the refund will only stop from increasing once the three telcos comply with the order of the NTC, Cabarios stressed.
(With Jae Denise Adolfo)