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Senate approves the Lifetime Cellphone Number Act on third reading

PASAY CITY, Philippines – Senate Committee on Economic Affairs chair Senator Win Gatchalian takes a call at the session hall, 23 Jan 2018. The Senate has approved Gatchalian’s Lifetime Cellphone Number Act, that seeks to provide mobile users with the option of keeping their existing mobile numbers even as they switch networks or modes of subscription services. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

The Senate has approved on third and final reading a bill which will allow mobile users to switch between network providers without losing one’s own “digital identity”.

Senate Bill No. 1636, known as the Lifetime Cellphone Number Act, provides mobile users with the option of keeping their existing mobile numbers even as they switch networks or mode of subscription services (from prepaid to postpaid, and vice versa). The bill accomplishes this by prohibiting Public Telecommunications Entities (PTEs) from locking-in mobile devices to their respective network, regardless whether the device is sold as a unit or under a service contract.

“Advancing genuine consumer welfare starts by recognizing the right of every user to choose what is best for them. This is the essence of the Lifetime Cellphone Number Act – to have the freedom to avail of the services you want, and in return foster a spirit of market competition among telecommunication companies,” said Gatchalian, the principal sponsor and primary author of SBN 1636.

Additionally, SBN 1636 also removes the interconnection charges being imposed by network companies for calls and text messages sent to numbers registered under competing networks.

At present, users are charged with P2.50 per minute for calls and P0.15 for text messages to different networks. In 2016, these interconnection fees generated a total revenue of P3.2-billion for one telco giant.

“These interconnection fees put an unnecessary burden on mobile subscribers who have contacts that patronize different networks. Removing these fees will result in consumer savings since they will no longer be made to pay a premium for making inter-network calls and texts,” Gatchalian explained.

To ensure strict compliance with the pro-consumer provisions of the measure, SBN 1636 imposes strict penalties on PTEs for non-compliance. For the first offense, telecommunication companies shall be charged a fine between P100,000 to P300,000; for the second office, the fine will be from P400,000 up to P600,000. Subsequent offenses shall have a penalty of not less than P700,000 and up to P1-million, and shall result in the revocation of the telco company’s franchise.