Automatic customer refunds from erring Internet providers sought


At a glance

    simon-hattinga-verschure-WNevBlZWCKA-unsplash.jpg (Unsplash)

    Citing the country’s costly Internet services, solons led by Davao City 1st district Rep. Paolo Duterte are pushing for the institutionalization of a refund mechanism that customers can turn to when their telecommunications and Internet service providers (ISPs) fail to deliver.

    The solons filed House Bill (HB) No.8480, which seeks to amend the 28-year-old Republic Act (RA) No.7925, otherwise known as the Public Telecommunications Policy Act of the Philippines.

    If enacted, the measure would require public telecommunications companies to automatically give refunds to customers who experience intermittent or continuous service disruptions of 24 hours or more in a month.

    “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,” said Duterte, a former deputy speaker in the House of Representatives.

    Duterte said the measure will ensure that subscribers pay only for the service they get and push telecom firms to provide fast, reliable and uninterrupted Internet connection.

    In HB No.8480’s explanatory note, 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.

    Benguet lone district Rep. Eric Yap, ACT-CIS Party-list Reps. Jocelyn Tulfo and Edvic Yap, and Quezon City 2nd district Rep. Ralph Tulfo jointly filed HB No.8480 with Duterte.

    The bill mandates public telecommunications entities (PTEs), including 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.

    "ISPs and public telecommunications entities concerned shall not require the customer to take any action in order to receive a refund credit or bill adjustments," stated the measure, which aims to  benefit both postpaid and prepaid subscribers.

    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".