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Per-pulse billing row heading for Supreme Court

1 Feb 2012

The Business Mirror newspaper reports that a dispute between a number of the country’s major mobile operators and the Filipino regulator, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), over the implementation of a per-pulse billing regime for cellular calls could be heading all the way to the Supreme Court. The paper notes that with the telcos all bitterly opposed to the new scheme an escalation in the legal case now seems inevitable after the Court of Appeals (CA) denied the motions for reconsideration filed by the telcos and the regulators. The eleven-page decision signed by Associate Justice Hakim Abdulwahid stated: ‘The motions for reconsideration and the motion for partial reconsideration filed by Connectivity Unlimited Resources Enterprises (CURE), Smart Communications, Globe Telecom and Innove Communications, respectively, and the motion for partial reconsideration filed by the NTC are denied for lack of merit.’ The resolution was circulated on 19 January 2012.

The mobile operators had appealed the December 2010 ruling by the CA which ordered them to submit new proposals to the NTC concerning new rates for mobile voice calls, under the six-second-per-pulse billing scheme stipulated by NTC memorandum circular No. 05-07-2009. The watchdog’s memorandum called for on-net voice calls to be charged based on time used, rather than the existing ‘per-minute’ arrangement. The proposal suggested charging consumers a ‘flag-down’ rate of PHP3 for the first twelve seconds, with each subsequent six-second pulse charged up to P0.56 for the first minute and thereafter each pulse would be charged at up to PHP0.75 per minute – or 10% of the highest prevailing rate among the phone firms of PHP7.50 per minute. While the CA recognised the NTC’s mandate to implement a default billing system on a per-pulse basis, it, however, questioned the manner by which the NTC arrived at the rates, and asked the cellular operators to submit a list of new rates. The court dismissed appeals on this order and NTC Commissioner Gamaliel Cordoba noted that it remains an option for the watchdog to take the dispute to the Supreme Court.

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