Solons push passage of bill mandating customer refund for poor telco service


Lawmakers are pushing for the passage of a House bill that would compel public telecommunications companies (telco) to automatically give refund to customers who may experience intermittent or continuous service disruptions of 24 hours or more in a month.

Davao City 1st District Rep. Paolo Duterte, Benguet Rep. Eric Yap, ACT-CIS Party-list Reps. Jocelyn Tulfo and Edvic Yap, and Quezon City 2nd District Rep. Ralph Tulfo said House Bill (HB) 8480 will ensure that subscribers pay only for the service they get and push telcos to provide fast, reliable and uninterrupted internet connection.

“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,” Duterte pointed out.

In HB 8480’s explanatory note, the bill’s authors said 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.

HB 8480 mandates public telecommunications entities (PTE), including internet service providers (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.

The bill states, “ISPs and public telecommunications entities concerned shall not require the customer to take any action in order to receive a refund credit or bill adjustment.”

The measure, which aims to benefit both post-paid and prepaid-subscribers, aims to amend Republic Act 7925 or the Public Telecommunications Policy Act enacted 28 years ago.

Telecom firms and ISPs found by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to have violated the bill’s provisions would 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.”

A similar measure has been filed in the Senate.