Published 24 May 2019, The Daily Tribune

One economic principle to keep ahead in a highly competitive industry is to increase switching costs of consumers. Theoretically, when customers feel that changing from one brand to another will cause them extra inconvenience, or they think that they will incur  additional charge, the logical choice is to stick to brand they are used to. From the business standpoint, the goal is to keep the consumer loyal by not just keeping prices low, but also making sure they stick to the brand by adding hurdles to exiting from their current subscription.

But this will no longer true in the mobile telecommunications industry. Thanks to the recent enactment of Republic Act No. 11202 or the Mobile Number Portability Act.

Under the new law, mobile numbers can now be kept by consumers even if they switch from one service provider to another. Mobile portability also covers changing the type of subscription of one person from postpaid to prepaid and vice versa. This means that the days when you have to think and rethink whether or not you’ll switch from one telecom to another are gone.

This is also useful for those who are fixated on certain numbers due to emotional attachment, fengshui significance and good luck considerations but yet not happy with their current phone providers.

Indeed, the new law is a welcome change to users as it promote consumer welfare by providing an increased freedom in choosing a mobile phone service provider. This also means increased bargaining power for consumers. The law outlines the obligations of Public Telecommunication Entities (PTE), Recipient Providers, and Donor Providers.

Obligation of PTEs

Public Telecommunications Entity refers to duly authorized entities that offers voice, text (SMS), mobile date, value-added services, or any other mobile telecommunication services to the public for a fee. They are now obliged to provide MNP to all qualified subscribers free of charge. They are prohibited from delaying, withholding, refusing delivery of MNP within a prescribed period. From this, we can expect expediency in granting our mobile portability requests.

The MNP Act also provides a maximum of 24 hours for PTEs to change the type of subscription from postpaid to prepaid or vice versa, counted from the time of submission of requests. A proviso of the law also states that a subscriber shall be allowed to port the same number only after the lapse of 60 days from the completion of the last porting process or the process by which a donor provider moves a mobile number to a recipient provider or changes the type of subscription.

While these seem to be highly technical, it remains as a feat for consumers to have these regulations in place. In fact, we can anticipate information drive from PTEs themselves as they are mandated to provide complete, relevant, and timely information on the features of MNP.

Unlocking of handsets of a subscriber who has requested and fulfilled the necessary requirements will now be seamless under the new law. The new law also reminds PTEs to adhere to the provisions of the Data Privacy Act of 2012, as an additional safeguard to us consumers.

As a key development, the new law prohibits the imposition of interconnection fee or charge by any mobile service provider for domestic calls and SMS made by a subscriber. This means that greater freedom of choice is afforded to each subscriber as the new law weakens exit barriers by imposing hefty fines to PTEs for non-compliance. Telecommunication providers will now be more circumspect in delivering MNP as they could be imposed administrative penalties ranging from a fine of P10,000 to P1,000,000 and worse, be sanctioned with the revocation of its franchise to operate.

Mandated to craft the Implementing Rules and Regulations are the National telecommunications Commission, Department of Information and Technology, National Privacy Commission and the Philippine Competition Commission. The new law is now in place. It is up to these agencies to come up with an IRR that is sharp enough to promote the welfare of every mobile user.

It always pays to be loyal, but loyalty to a brand or network should not come with unnecessary costs. It is empowering to know that legislative enactments, even on the most mundane technological advancements could largely impact our daily lives.

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