By Mario Casayuran
Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian on Thursday looks forward to the removal of the expiration period of all denominations of prepaid load credits to be used for telecommunications services when the Senate and House of Representatives meet on July 22, the start of the 18th Congress.
Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate economic affairs committee in the 17th Congress, recently filed Senate Bill (SB) 365, or the Prepaid Load Forever Act of 2019, which seeks to prohibit all Public Telecommunications Entities (PTEs) and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) providers from imposing an expiration period on the validity of prepaid load credits and their forfeiture.
Gatchalian explained that his bill makes it a prohibited act to impose an expiration period on the validity of all denominations of prepaid load credits – whether purchased via prepaid card or electronic load – and the eventual forfeiture of such credits on an active prepaid account.
“Every peso spent by the consumer to purchase prepaid load credits must be usable until fully consumed,” he stressed.
The Prepaid Load Forever Act of 2019 prohibits imposition of an expiration period on the validity of unused prepaid load credits, whether purchased via prepaid card or electronic load; forfeiture of such prepaid load credits on an active prepaid account, save for the purpose of availing of the mobile number portability service; and refusal to give a refund to any prepaid subscriber whose load credits were forfeited without any valid cause.
Gatchalian explained that what differentiates his bill from the others filed in previous Congresses is that his measure covers all prepaid load credits, not just call and text credits, but also those that are loaded to devices to be used for other telecommunications services, including, but not to limited to tablets, Wi-Fi dongles, or mobile hotspots. The bill also includes transferred or shared prepaid load credits.
SB 365 defines “Prepaid Load Credit” as the monetary value or the consumable amount loaded via prepaid card or electronic load to a device that enables a subscriber to use telecommunications services.
The lawmaker said his bill will potentially impact 142,432,163 prepaid subscribers – or 96.6% of the total number of mobile subscribers in the country as of the first quarter of 2019 – who stand to lose their hard-earned prepaid load credits due to non-use before the expiration date.
Gatchalian explained that Joint Memorandum Circular No. 05-12-2017 of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) currently prescribes a one-year validity period for prepaid load credits of all PTEs and ICT providers with a denomination of P300 and above effective last January 5, 2018.
Prepaid loads purchased for promos and bucket of services with specific period of use duly approved by the DTI and/or the NTC are not covered by the circular.