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House panel tackles bill prohibiting expiration of prepaid load

The House information and communications technology committee on Friday discussed a proposed measure seeking a prohibition on the expiration of the validity of prepaid load.

Valenzuela City First District Representative Wes Gatchalian said the bill he filed seeks to prohibit the imposition of an expiration period on the validity of prepaid load credits and their eventual forfeiture, saying this should give consumers their money's worth.

At a virtual hearing, Gatchalian explained that the bill has a provision in which one peso a day will be deducted from dormant sim cards.

Representatives from telcos Smart and Globe, however, both said there is a cost attached to maintaining subscribers in the companies' networks whether the subscribers are active or inactive.

Roy Ibay, Smart's vice president for legal and regulatory affairs, said the international best practice by telecom operators is for cellphone prepaid loads to have expiration dates.

Ariel Tubayan, Globe's policy division director, for his part, pointed out that 95% of Globe's subscribers are prepaid subscribers, stressing the carrying cost of maintaining load validity beyond a year.

"I think before we proceed with legislation, we need to study the underlying data for a more intelligent discussion regarding the requirement to extend the validity period of prepaid cards," he said at the hearing.

Smart and Globe had also opposed a similar bill filed by Senator Ralph Recto in 2014, citing the same reasons.

In 2017, the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Information and Communications Technology, and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued a joint memorandum circular stretching the validity of prepaid loads to one year, effective January 5, 2018.

The House committee on Friday resolved to create a technical working group (TWG) for the consolidation of similar bills.

The same committee also approved the creation of a TWG for the consolidation of four House bills seeking a minimum speed requirement for internet service providers in the Philippines.

Earlier this week, the NTC said it was planning to set a minimum internet speed amid an increasing reliance on online transactions amid the COVID-19 pandemic. —LDF, GMA News