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Bill mandates refunds for poor internet

June 14, 2023 Jester P. Manalastas 129 views

A group of lawmaker filed a measure requiring public telecommunications companies to automatically give refunds to customers who experience intermittent or continuous service disruptions of 24 hours or more in a month.

Authors of House Bill 8480 are Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte; Benguet Rep. Eric Yap, ACT-CIS Partylist Reps. Jocelyn Tulfo and Edvic Yap, and Quezon City 2nd District Rep. Ralph Tulfo.

The bill seeks to ensure that subscribers pay only for the service they get and push telecom firms to provide fast, reliable and uninterrupted internet connection.

“While the telecommunications industry has continued to flourish in the country, internet connection and reliability of service remains a persistent problem, along with exorbitant costs paid by consumers for internet service,” Duterte said.

The authors pointed out that the Philippines has among the most expensive fixed broadband services in Asia, resulting in its low ranking in the 2022 Digital Quality of Life Index (DQLI) independently conducted by the cybersecurity firm Surfshark.

The Philippines ranked 98th in the 2022 DQLI, in terms of internet affordability, down by 26 notches from its similarly low ranking of 72nd in 2021.

HB 8480, mandates public telecommunications entities (PTEs), including internet service providers (ISPs), to institute a mechanism that would automatically provide customers refund credits or downward adjustments in their bills on a pro-rated basis whenever service outages or disruptions occur for an aggregate period of 24 hours or more within a one-month billing cycle.

The bill states that “ISPs and public telecommunications entities concerned shall not require the customer to take any action in order to receive a refund credit or bill adjustment.”

The measure, which aims to benefit both postpaid and prepaid subscribers, aims to amend Republic Act 7925 or the Public Telecommunications Policy Act enacted 28 years ago.

Telecom firms and ISPs found by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to have violated the bill’s provisions will be fined between P200,000 and P2 million.

For violators whose gross annual income are P10 million and below, the penalty shall be equivalent to 1 percent to 2 percent of their gross annual income.

Repeated violations are penalized under the bill with the revocation of the PTE’s provisional authority or certificate of public convenience and necessity, or the cancellation of the registration of the ISP, whichever applies, “including the waiver of pre-termination fees of affected subscribers and the timely disbursement of any remaining credits from excessive downtime.”

A similar measure has been filed in the Senate.