MANILA, Philippines -- The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) ordered Globe Telecom to suspend an allegedly devious promotion that supposedly increased the offering rates for its unlimited short messaging system (SMS) service by over 100 percent, an official told INQUIRER.net Monday.
NTC deputy commissioner Jorge Sarmiento confirmed that the agency ordered the mobile phone operator to stop implementing the promo pending a public hearing.
"The NTC stopped the promo this [Monday] morning and will schedule a public hearing," the official added in a text message.
The NTC Commissioner Abraham Abesamis ordered mobile company to "hold in abeyance the implementation of the new unlimited text service and restore the unlimited text promo priced at P10 for one day, P25 for two days and P50 for five days."
The agency's order cited TXTPower's complaint as the basis for the order and added that a public hearing will be held to settle the dispute.
The NTC order came after consumer group TXTPower filed a complaint on February 1, the same day Globe implemented the new price hike. The group urged the NTC to look into the "creatively crafted" promotion.
TXTPower co-convenor and spokesman Anthony Ian Cruz said Sarmiento met with the group Monday morning to tell them that the NTC had suspended the promo. Representatives of the local consumer group trooped to the regulatory agency's office in Quezon City to protest Globe Telecom's plans.
"[NTC deputy secretary] Jorge Sarmiento met us after the picket to tell us the news," Cruz said in a text message.
"This is good news and we hope the order becomes permanent," Cruz added in an e-mailed statement.
"We hope the NTC makes sure Globe follows the order and rolls back to the previous rates immediately. We will prepare for a public hearing to demolish Globe's arguments and show why keeping unlimited text messaging rates at the lowest possible levels is a legitimate pro-consumer and pro-business move," he said.
Last week, TXTPower met with lawyer Lucio Espinoza, Jr., chief of staff of NTC chairman Abraham Abesamis. During the meeting, the official told the group that the agency was going to look into its complaint.
Globe Telecom announced on February 1, 2007 in an advertisement that its four-day Unlitxt now costs P80.00, compared to the previous charge of P50.00 for five days of the old Unlimitxt.
"The replacement of Unlimitxt with the new promos [Unlitxt, Daytime Unlimited Texting, Nighttime Unlimited Texting, and TXTPlus] is arguably a rate hike. Previously under Unlimited, unlimited texting for five days was charged P50.00 [roughly P10.00 a day]. Under the new promos, unlimited texting for four days would now cost P80.00 [or P20 a day]. A close comparison of the previous and new unlimited texting rates would reveal that Globe Telecom has successfully obtained NTC approval for a 100 percent hike in bulk-prices for text messaging," the local consumer group said in its letter to the NTC.
Jones Campos, assistant vice president for Globe Telecom public relations, had denied earlier there was a rate increase, adding that the promo is still the cheapest service in the market.
"They should not compare the previous services with the new one. They're different," Jones added, insisting that the promo gives subscribers more options.
"We believe that this [promo] is customizing our service to suit to the different market segments and lifestyle of our subscribers," the executive added.
Campos was unavailable for comment as of this writing.
Organized in 2001, TXTPower considers itself a local group representing consumer advocates.
Previously, the group also filed a complaint that prompted the NTC to tentatively stop Smart Communications and Pilipino Telephone Corp. from implementing expiry dates on their respective subscriber's free text allocations and free airtime load.