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Janette Toral

Telecommunication data log retention

June 15, 2008 8:58pm
Telecommunication entities, including value added services and content providers, have important obligations to be transparent and fair to consumers. It is important for users of these services to know their rights and exercise them whenever necessary.

A few months back, I received a complaint from a friend about "disappearing load credits." His inquiries were not answered. I also had my share of bad experiences in this area back in 2006. There was an outage and my prepaid load was not properly credited. After two calls and no concrete action, I decided to just let it go.

I still hope for the creation of an NTC value-added services board someday so that succeeding orders and approval of new technologies will ensure consumer protection as a prerequisite.

Hearing complaints from consumers on various telecom-related services, such as text messages, prepaid card loading, disappearing credits, bad Internet service provider connection, among others, is now common. It is important for consumers to know their rights.

Let me start with National Telecommunications Commission Memorandum Circular 04-06-2007. The need for this regulation started when law enforcement authorities requested help in tracking scams sent through cellphones. At that time, mobile numbers were merely reported and disabled. There was a need to track these scammers live, know where they are for surveillance and arrest.

I believe that scam text messages are not sent from mobile phones directly, but from a GSM modem plugged to a PC that has a database of mobile phone numbers.

These scammers are organized and they enjoy taking advantage of a flawed consumer protection law. Authorities have also no access to telecommunication data.

The same situation is being faced by the NTC and DTI, two agencies that often receive complaints from consumers about disappearing prepaid load.

Consumers now do not believe that providers do not store records of prepaid holders or furnish such information on-demand.

With NTC MC 04-06-2007, providers are required to store for two months records of non-metered services and for four months of everything else.

Note that actual calls and text messages are not being saved here but only basic information such as origin, destination, time, and duration of communications.

Access to this information requires complainants to pass through the NTC or with by getting a court order. This is to ensure that lawful access (section 31) and obligation of confidentiality (section 32) provisions of Republic Act 8792 will be followed.

I will tackle the steps consumers can take to file a complaint at the NTC and their rights in my next post.