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PCC says telco competition probe won’t go past two years

THE competition complaints filed by DITO Telecommunity Corp. against Smart Communications, Inc. and Globe Telecom, Inc. is not expected to go over a two-year investigation period, an official of the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) said on Wednesday.

“I don’t think we will exhaust a two-year investigation period because unlike other verified complaints that we receive from smaller businesses or even individuals, this is a fairly complete complaint that was filed by DITO,” said Johannes R. Bernabe, PCC officer-in-charge chairperson, in Agenda program on One News Channel that the complaints filed by DITO.

He said under the law, the preliminary inquiry will take 90 days. He was referring to Republic Act No. 10667 or the Philippine Competition Act.

“After that, we will have an opportunity if under that preliminary inquiry process, our enforcement office has not yet completed its investigation on whether or not there is anti-competitive behavior happening, they can proceed to a full administrative investigation that normally is conducted in a two-year period,” he added.

If proven that the two companies have violated the law, Mr. Bernabe said the PCC would ask them to fix any anti-competitive behavior and ask for interconnection.

He added that an administrative fine of up to P100 million can be imposed under RA 10667.

“This is a first offense so that is going to be P100 million each because there are two separate complaints filed in the commission against Smart and Globe,” Mr. Bernabe said.

On Aug. 8, DITO announced that the company had filed complaints against Smart and Globe after allegedly failing to provide sufficient interconnection capacity to allow phone calls from the new telco’s subscribers, claiming that the two firms are doing “an abuse of their dominant position.”

DITO Chief Administrative Officer Adel A. Tamano said that the company had been attempting to fix the issue with Globe and Smart for almost a year, adding that the interconnection issue had affected the company’s growth.

In a previous statement, the PCC defined interconnection as an “essential component of the telecommunications industry as it allows interoperability and exchange of calls, SMS (short message service), and other information from one network to another.”

The commission added that its competition enforcement office is currently evaluating the merits of DITO’s complaints.

Meanwhile, the PCC is looking to start the investigation on DITO’s complaints starting next week, adding that the commission has yet to be in touch with Globe and Smart on the matter.

“Under our process, we have to go through that in-take procedure where we have 10 days to determine whether we give due course to the complaint… There are other factors that we have to take into account in deciding whether to give due course and I think we shall do that by next week at the latest,” Mr. Bernabe said.

“Many of the elements that we are looking for are already there (DITO’s complaints). And therefore, it is a matter of confirming it and trying to understand whether or not there is indeed an unconditional requirement for interconnection and whether the arguments provided by Smart and Globe merit a conditioned response in terms of the interconnection request of DITO,” he added. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave

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