Globe gets TRO in SMS refund case

Posted at 09/04/14 8:16 PM

MANILA – The Court of Appeals (CA) has temporarily blocked an order issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) which required Ayala-led Globe Telecom Inc. to give refunds to its customers for excess charges on text messages.

The CA’s Sixteenth Division cited as one of the reasons for the issuance of the TRO the “massive amount” that Globe is required to refund to its customers.

The NTC earlier said that, to date, more than P7 billion in refunds or reimbursement have to be paid by mobile service providers to the subscribing public.

The CA said it issued the TRO because there is no clear mechanism with which to effect the crediting of load for prepaid subscribers and refund for postpaid subscribers.

"Moreover, if the assailed decision is not restrained at this stage and implementation thereof is allowed to proceed and this Court later on finds that the appealed decision should be set aside, recovery of the amounts already garnished might later on prove to be impossible for petitioner and render our decision ineffectual," the CA said in its nine-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Maria Elisa Sempio Diy.

However, Globe has been directed by the appellate court to post a bond in the amount of P500,000 to compensate for all damages which its subscribers may suffer by reason of the issuance of the TRO should it finally decide against the telecommunications company.

Globe has been ordered to show cause why a writ of preliminary injunction should not be issued and to comment to the petition within 10 days.

NTC issued separate orders on November 20, 2012 requiring telecommunication companies, including Globe, Smart Communications Inc. and Digitel Philippines Inc., to immediately refund and cut text messaging charges to P0.80 from P1.

The three firms were also directed to refund or reimburse their subscribers excess charges of P0.20 per off-net SMS from the effectivity of the memorandum circular until fully settled, by crediting the load of prepaid subscribers or effecting the refund through the respective bills for postpaid subscribers.

The CA has already issued a TRO on NTC’s order on Digitel. Smart, meanwhile, has also filed a separate petition before the CA also seeking the issuance of a TRO.

In its petition, Globe questioned how the refunds can be effectively implemented “when the identity of the prepaid users is unknown, and the great overwhelming majority of the prepaid market have long been using and continue to use unlimited (instead of piso-per-text) services?"

Globe added that the refund puts into jeopardy the financial viability of the telecom industry and the public will likely suffer if it is not enjoined.

"It may be true that what the Commission did was popular. But what it did was, without doubt, premeditatedly unjust and this continuing injustice and disservice must be stopped," the firm said.