Voting 20-0, the Senate approved on third and final reading Monday a bill seeking to allow consumers to keep their cellphone numbers for life, even if they changed service providers or subscription plans.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate committee on economic affairs and author of the bill, said Senate Bill No. 1636 or the proposed “The Lifetime Cellphone Number Act” would primarily require public telecommunications entities in the country to provide consumers with “mobile number portability (MNP).”
He said MNP is the ability to retain one’s existing mobile number even when he or she moves from one service provider to another, or when he or she changes subscription to postpaid to prepaid, or vice versa.
“The bill would give consumers them the freedom to choose the provider that would give the best value for their money without having to lose or change their mobile numbers,” Gatchalian said.
Under the bill, telecommunications entities who would delay, withhold, refuse or otherwise not deliver the benefits of mobile number portability to a mobile subscriber within “24 hours from the time such subscriber completed his or her porting application,” could be penalized with fines up to P1 million, or with total revocation of their operating franchises.
The telecommunications entities are mandated to provide consumers with “sufficient and relevant” information on how to avail of the MNP, including application requirements and the porting process.
Included in the bill was the amendment introduced by Senator Panfilo Lacson which would remove the “inter-connectivity” fees imposed by telecommunications entities on subscribers for calls and messages across different networks.
Gatchalian said that the bill would address concerns of consumers, “who would rather stick to their current mobile service providers and continue to pay for bad service, rather than face the inconvenience of changing numbers for fear of losing important contacts.”
“The bill would free them from such shackles and allow them to transfer to the telecommunications entity that offers the best customer service, network coverage and quality of service,” Gatchalian said.
The bill is expected to promote competition among telecommunications entities, and stimulate them to “provide consumers with the best overall value that they can offer.”
“It will also foster technological innovation that will lead to an even greater demand for telecommunications products and services, and lead to a virtuous cycle of economic growth,” the bill said.
Senate approved Lifetime Cellphone Number bill
4/ 5Oleh BNP Correspondent