Cabaero: Another inquiry

THE Senate started a new inquiry this week into the performance of the country’s telecommunications companies.

The inquiry is on a common complaint of subscribers -- the loss of their phone credits, the shock of knowing that the money put in to text, call or surf is gone before fully consumed. But what about the earlier inquiry? What happened to complaints on slow internet connections that it investigated in 2014?

The Senate committee on science and technology is investigating consumer complaints about “nakaw” load or the unexplained disappearance of mobile phone credits.

Four years ago, a Senate inquiry was also conducted on the question of slow internet speed in the country provided by internet service providers (ISPs) and telecommunications giants Smart Communication and Globe Telecom. An inquiry made by the Senate committee on trade, commerce and entrepreneurship in September 2014 ended with the companies assuring of improvements in the country’s internet speed and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) promising to monitor compliance by telcos and ISPs with the prescribed minimum standards.

Now comes another inquiry, also led by Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, but this time as chair of the Senate committee on science and technology. It was Aquino who chaired the Senate committee on trade, commerce and entrepreneurship inquiry in 2014.

Aquino said transparency should be required of telecommunications companies if these were to act on consumer complaints about the disappearance of their prepaid mobile phone credits. The immediate solution is for telcos to issue notifications to subscribers whenever load is credited or deducted. Phone owners get to know their load spending and the services they are subscribed to so they could cancel those they did not want.

A total of 126 million Filipinos, or 97 percent of the country’s 130 million mobile phone owners are prepaid subscribers, based on 2016 figures.

Aquino said he hoped the companies would agree to this suggestion as a “simple way to solve the long-standing problem of disappearing prepaid load.” He also called on them to review their inventory of added services to protect consumers from deductions in their prepaid load for services they did not ask for or needed.

He then called on the Department of Information and Communications Technology, Department of Trade and Industry, and NTC to get their act together and address consumer complaints.

This latest Senate inquiry lets government agencies and companies account for the practice of “nakaw” load. In several cases, consumers turned to social media to let others know of their grievance and also out of exasperation for the lack of action of the concerned entities.

Such inquiry is welcome but it also is a reminder of the earlier undertaking of the Senate. How did that end and what benefits did consumers gain after the Senate inquiry? Are rules on the validity period for load credits being implemented and monitored? Has anyone been penalized?

This inquiry must lead to action or it will go the route of some of those past investigations.
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