House bill seeks to end cell card load expiry
Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - February 24, 2017 - 11:17pm

MANILA, Philippines - Prepaid phone subscribers will no longer have to worry about their unused loads expiring once a bill filed at the House of Representatives prohibiting such prepaid phone card expiry becomes law.

“While the use of prepaid call and text card is convenient because it allows subscribers to spend according to their needs, it is subject to an expiry date, wherein unused credits are forfeited upon such time regardless of the amount,” Rep. Winston Castelo, who filed the bill, has pointed out.

The Quezon City congressman called his proposed measure “Prepaid Load Protection Act,” which also “disallows the unjust forfeiture of load credits not used by subscribers” on their prepaid call and text cards.

“This creates an unfair situation, where customers who have paid for the telecommunication networks’ services do not get the full value of the money they spent,” Castelo said, taking note of complaints on “missing” or forfeited load credits due to expiry dates.

At the same time, he lamented that the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), the government agency supposed to regulate telcos and uphold consumer protection, even has a policy supporting the unfair practice.

The NTC, through its Memorandum Circular 03-07-2009, provides a schedule of rates and their corresponding periods of validity, wherein prepaid loads of higher value have longer validity periods. 

“Such is unabashedly anti-poor and inequitable as it favors more affluent users as against poorer customers, who are quickly deprived of their right to use the services they have paid for,” Castelo said.

In 2014, the NTC and the country’s telecommunication companies opposed a proposed bill by Sen. Ralph Recto that sought to ban expiration dates on cellular phone loads and forfeiture of unused load credits of prepaid subscribers.

Recto’s bill at the Senate was similarly named as Castelo’s bill now in Congress: “Prepaid Load Protection Act of 2014.”

“There have been rampant complaints that prepaid subscribers do not get the full value of the load credits that they paid for because of the expiration of prepaid call and text cards and forfeiture of un-utilized load credits,” Recto had said.

To this, the telcos and the NTC said the expiry dates of load credits are needed, as each dormant subscriber identity module (SIM) occupies a space in the network and entails cost for the telecommunication firms.

The telcos instead extended the validity periods of some denominations of prepaid loads.

Castelo earlier noted practices of some firms that put consumers on the losing end.

 

WINSTON CASTELO
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