Round 1 – Hearing On Lost Prepaid Phone Loads

load_cardsThe first Senate hearing on the issue of expiring prepaid phone loads was held yesterday, June 16, 2009 and based on news reports, the cellular phone companies do not have much of a defense on their irregular practice. The hearing was instigated by an incident that happened to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile where he lost some load credits on his prepaid Globe cell phone. Sen. Enrile who fumed over his lost phone load, delivered a privilege speech, asked for investigation  and the result was the hearing yesterday.

The representative to the hearing of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), Commissioner Ruel Canobas said that the case of disappearing prepaid phone loads might have been prevented if local telecommunications companies allowed government to implement stronger rules on consumer protection. Comm. Canobas admitted that the cellular phone companies had been blocking the implementation of a memorandum circular that provides guidelines for the expiration of subscriber identification module (SIM) card and the prepaid phone load.

The NTC Commissioner is referring to NTC Memorandum Circular No. 13-06-2000 which was created in 2000 but was actively countered by the telecommunications companies who got a court injunction that prevented the implementation of the circular. Memorandum Circular No. 13-06-2000 provides that prepaid loads and the SIM card shall be valid for two (2) years from date of first use. The circular also provides that a  buyer of prepaid SIM be required to present valid identification card such as driver’s license, passport or Professional Regulation Commission ID card.

The cellular phone companies are given the option to lift the court injunction and allow the implementation of the NTC circular or face some modifications of their franchises (check this article for information) which the legislature has the power to do. The telecommunication companies have yet to issue statements regarding the issue.

For the uninitiated, the current practice of cellular phone companies is to expire unused prepaid phone loads depending on how much airtime credits a subscriber buys. The usual equation is that a ten-peso load is good for one day so if the subscriber bought a thirty (P30.00) load, it will be gone in three (3) days whether he use or not. A SIM card which has no load for six (6) months will become invalid after the said period. Anyone (even without identification card) can buy a SIM card.

When the news about Sen. Enrile’s fuming mad and promising to conduct investigation, negative comments like he’s just politicking because election is coming were heard all over the place. Now that the first Senate hearing was conducted with promise of better deals for prepaid cell phone subscribers, we can only hope that we get a fair deal out of this proceeding.

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