Court grants Digitel's plea to stop refund
Digitel is another wireless unit of PLDT carrying the Sun Cellular brand.
In a 4-page resolution dated August 20 and penned by Associate Justice Priscilla Baltazar-Padilla of the Sixth Division, the appellate court granted Digitel's motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against a National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) decision ordering the refund. The TRO also covered the May 7, 2014 NTC decision that denied the telcos' motion for reconsideration (MR).
Digitel was also directed by the CA to post a cash bond or surety bond of P500,000 ($11,402.47).
CA said the TRO was granted because Digitel argued that its petition is anchored on whether NTC Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 02-10-2011 is limited only to interconnection charges and excludes retail prices on regular short message service (SMS).
Based on previous NTC computations, of the 40 million text messages charged P1 – a total of P40 million – the companies would have to refund P0.20 per text message or P8 million per day since the NTC issued MC 02-10-2011 or the “Interconnection Charge for SMS” effective December 2011.
Preserving the status quo
The appellate court said the recovery of the refund "might be impossible" in the event that the court rules against NTC.
"… To prevent any irremediable injury that petitioner may sustain in view of the enforcement of the impugned decision, it is prudent to preserve the status quo, pending determination of the propriety of the issuance of the said judgment," the resolution read.
The court ordered NTC to explain within 10 days why Digitel's application for issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction should not be granted.
Digitel said in its petition that it has no means to know the existence of the subscribers and the identities of the actual users of the Mobile Identification Numbers since most of its subscribers are prepaid SIM card users.
NTC issued the resolutions to penalize the telcos for violating the commission's MC 02-10-2011, which ordered the reduction of the interconnection charge for SMS between two separate networks to a rate not higher than P0.15 ($0.003) per SMS from its rate then of P0.35 ($0.008).
After the telcos failed to comply with the 2011 circular, the NTC issued another decision in November 2012 directing Smart, Sun Cellular, and Globe to reduce its regular SMS retail price to other networks to not more than P0.80 per SMS and reimburse its subscribers the excess charge of P0.20 per off-net SMS, from the effectivity of the circular.
The CA has yet to rule on the separate petitions filed by Smart and Globe. – Rappler.com
*($1 = P43.85)