Lapid: Telcos must refund for service outages and disruptions

Published March 10, 2021, 11:14 AM

by Mario Casayuran

Senator Manuel “Lito” Lapid on Tuesday, March 9 filed Senate Bill (SB) 2092, an Act Amending Republic Act (R.A.) 7925, known as the “Public Telecommunications Policy Act of the Philippines”, by requiring public telecommunication entities and internet service providers to institute a refund mechanism for service outages and disruptions.

Senator Manuel “Lito” Lapid

In filing the measure, Lapid explained that for an Internet-dependent, data-driven world where almost all aspects of our daily life rely on being “online” and “connected”, service outages, disruptions and interruptions cause discomfort, lost opportunities, or worse, lost profits and income.

To illustrate, the senator said that disconnection in the middle of an online class may spell missing a test or quiz for our students.

Snail-paced internet speeds lead to reduced, or even halted production and operations for ICT-based businesses and Industries, he added.

He also cited that business and commercial transactions that depend on digital finance and banking services would stand still if the transacting parties or the service providers themselves are forced off-line becauSse of downtimes.

“Our country is no stranger to these outages and similar circumstances. Last September 2020, major telecommunications companies warned about slow internet speed for a five-day period due to maintenance activities on an undersea cable. Nationwide outages had even disrupted Senate committee hearings,” Lapid said.

“In fact, data from a website monitoring real-time status and outage information revealed that for a single day, reports of outages for certain Philippine internet service providers (ISPs) peaked to as high as fifty (50) outages,” he added.

Lapid also mentioned that aside from internet connection, disruptions in phone signal and cellular networks are also common. There are even places where basic phone call/text signal is still non-existent, he stressed.

He pointed out that despite the frequency of these service outages and disruptions, consumers foot the bill for their monthly or pre-paid internet subscriptions without adjustments or refunds for such occurrences – they are paying for a service that they have not enjoyed or used for hours, if not, even days through no fault on their part.

SB 2092, by virtue of an amendment to R.A. 7925 or the “Public Telecommunications Policy Act of the Philippines”, seeks to put an end to this by requiring Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Public Telecommunications Entities to provide, on a pro-rated basis, a refund credit to a customer, or adjust a customer’s bill, who has experienced a service outage or disruption for an aggregate period of twenty-four (24) hours or more within a month.

The refund or bill adjustment mandated under this proposed measure shall likewise be granted to customers subscribing to a service on a pre-paid basis.

The refund credit or bill adjustment shall be automatically implemented without need of any action or request on the part of the affected customer.

Lapid said that the principle behind this measure is quite simple – that there is no unjust enrichment on the part of big businesses to the prejudice of consumers.

“Not even a single centavo shall be paid out of the pockets of our people for a service that they did not use due to an outage or disruption,” he emphasized.