Philippines Watchdog Urges Cell Phone Reforms

The Philippine League for Democratic Telecommunications Inc. this month came out in support of the memorandum circular issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) addressing the woes of cellular phone subscribers.

The proposed reforms include extending the validity of prepaid phone cards beyond two months to as much as two years and measures to prevent the accumulation of billings.

"The pro-consumer provisions in the memorandum circular are sorely needed to alleviate the injustices long suffered by cellular phone consumers at the hands of the telephone companies," said Emmanuel Amador, president of the league. "These benefits should also apply to ordinary telephones (also known as landlines), with the clear understanding, of course, that landlines remain unmetered.''Amador noted that the practice of making prepaid phone cards expire after only two months is unfair. "The purchase of prepaid phone cards represent advance payment for a service that must be eventually rendered, even if the consumer does not avail of it right away," Amador noted. "Refusal to deliver that service simply because it was not used within two months is akin to theft."

He also said the practice of allowing billings to accumulate makes it difficult for consumers to pay for telephone service. "This kind of inefficiency puts yet another burden on consumers and makes it difficult for them to plan their budgets," Amador said.

The league also called for stricter measures and vigilant monitoring to ensure the quality of service and interconnection of cellular and landline service providers.

"World-class service is well within the capabilities of a telephone company that is determined to put the welfare of its subscribers first," Amador said. "There is no technical or economic reason why the NTC's requirements cannot be implemented, the telephone companies' objections and claims notwithstanding.''

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