Consumer Councils Nationwide Are Looking To Sue NBTC Over True-Dtac Merger

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https://www.nationthailand.com/pr-news/more/pr-news/40020132

Consumer councils nationwide are looking to sue NBTC over True-Dtac merger

Consumer Councils Nationwide Are Looking To Sue NBTC Over True-Dtac Merger

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2022

THE NATION

The Thailand Consumers Council Has Joined Consumer Organisations In 14 Provinces With The Intent To Sue The NBTC For Dereliction Of Duty In Protecting The Public Interest And Favouring Investors, And Abandoning The Issue Of Service Charges And Telecom Marketing In A Permanent Monopoly. NBTC Is Challenged To Debate The Issues With A Diverse Range Of Voices Before Passing A Resolution.

Miss Supinya Klangnarong, chair of the telecom subcommittee of the Thailand Consumers Council (TCC) spoke at a seminar, “Impacts of mobile phone monopolies on citizens’ rights to 5G.” She said that the issue of the business merger between True Corporation PCL and Total Access Communication PCL or Dtac was now with the Office of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), who were considering a resolution in this matter, as soon as the Council of State issued an opinion concerning NBTC’s powers to consider that matter.

Personally, she felt that NBTC’s execution of its duties had not been as stated in the Constitution, which required it to take the public’s side, and operate in the best interests of the general public, national security and the public interest, including ensuring that the public obtain the benefits from radio frequency spectra. Therefore, TCC and a network of consumer protection organizations in 14 provinces were petitioning NBTC concerning NBTC’s obligations to consider this merger.
 

Also, Supinya stated that it was necessary to create awareness in every sector about this deal, because it is not only the consumer sector that is impacted. There are also labourers for whom a 10-20 THB increase in service charges would affect their lives, and there is also the vulnerable group of disabled people for whom it is necessary to use Internet networks in the main for communication. Thus, if the merger goes ahead and prices go up, these groups must not be overlooked.

“We have proposed that the NBTC establish forums to hear opinions on this matter in the provinces, because this merger has affected people nationwide.

“NBTC is being proposed to hold forums to listen to opinions on this matter in the provinces, because the merger impacts the whole country. NBTC has 20 regional offices, and the NBTC board should be giving policy, because it must not be forgotten that there are many dimensions in the public sector, and every group should have the right to express their intentions.”

Supinya also said that the TCC’s demands were not only from the perspective of the merger deal. Another one or two years into the future, the world will be fully in the age of IoT, which will further increase reliance on the Internet following the global dynamic. As a consequence, it is crucial that citizens’ rights and voices are given priority by NBTC, or even the government, rather than neglected. This unity between TCC and the consumers’ network in 14 provinces will amplify our voices. Before NBTC passes a resolution on the True-Dtac merger, it should listen to the voice of the people, and must be open to participation from the public down to the grassroots, to express a broad spectrum of opinions in this matter.

TCC hits back with five reasons from consumers to the deal makers, and attacks propaganda which only refers to private sector interests

Miss Sari Ongsomwang, TCC Secretary-General, added that besides TCC and the network in 14 provinces suing NBTC, TCC would also join the Move Forward Party in suing NBTC to carry out its duties on this occasion. As for topics concerning the True-Dtac deal, she would like to explain from the perspective of consumers. True had previously sent out PR news about five good points of the merger, while from a contradictory perspective it had to be seen what consumers would lose if the merger was allowed to proceed. TCC has prepared five reasons for not approving the merger.

1. Service charges would certainly increase, because according to the report from NBTC’s economic and consumer protection subcommittee established by NBTC itself, this stated that service charges are trending to maximise, which is consistent with many bodies who have stated that they could rise by anything from 12 to 224%. When NBTC still lacked guarantees that service charges would not increase, promotions and distribution channels must not increase the burdens on consumers. NBTC has no concrete plan. Therefore the merger should not be allowed.

2. The perspective merger is between the number 2 and  number 3 operators in the market, and after such a merger only two large operators will remain, AIS and the new company formed from True and Dtac. The latter will have a market share exceeding 50%, meaning consumers will not have choices in using services. Despite the claim that there also remain National Telecommunications Co., Ltd. (NT) and two other MVNO companies, this does not reflect true competition. If the merger is allowed, market conditions will become a permanent monopoly.

3. Private sector claims were not completely true that the merger is required because the telecom business has not yielded profits, so becoming a technology company required a merger. This was because at present, although revenues from voice services have been recently reduced, revenues from data services are still at a high level. This shows that operators are still able to generate revenues from this business, and telecom networks are still considered key infrastructure to generate revenues.

4. The group of low-income consumers and students who required the Internet for their studies would have to top up an extra 30 THB per day or 900 THB per month. On this issue, NBTC and neither of True or Dtac however had a plan or measures to protect this group. A successful merger would be the cause of major impacts among this group of people.

5. This merger cannot be implemented because NBTC has the authority pursuant to the Announcement not allowing telecom operators to perform any monopolistic actions, or reduce or eliminate competition in the provision of telecom services. This includes giving orders to “approve” or “disapprove” the business manager of these telecom operators. NBTC also has the duty to apply the criteria in the anti-monopolistic Announcement of 2006 and the Announcement on mergers of 2018.

“NBTC should open up a debate forum on the pros and cons of the merger, and allow consumers to have maximal participation. This is because consumers are the group who must shoulder the eventual burden. Once the debate forum has been held, people will talk about the impacts from allowing the merger. Will NBTC not listen to the voice of the people? Will it have an opinion completely different to that of the public? NBTC should maintain its reputation for the greatest benefit of the public and the nation.”
 

THE NATION

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