Gov’t must stop thieves of people’s cellphone load

Everyday, subscribers of Smart, Globe and Sun Cellular have to contend not just with cellphone thieves who prowl with impunity across the country. But daily and quietly, a specter haunts almost each and every prepaid subscriber: that specter is cellphone load theft.

Many people have experienced loading up their phones with loads of 30 to 300 pesos, only to find out minutes later that their balance are near zero or, worse, zilch. Hindi naman tayo nagtext o tumawag, pero bigla na lang naglahong parang bula ang ating load.

Yes, someone or something is stealing prepaid load. There’s no explanation offered by the telcos about it, except to blame the hapless subscriber that he may have “inadvertedly” or “unwittingly” activated certain services, resulting in the loss of prepaid load. Kasalanan na naman daw natin.

The government must intervene. It has the mandate to protect the people from thieves. Now, this is a case of large-scale, nationwide and multi-million thievery. Over 90 percent of the nation’s 40 million cellphone subscribers are on prepaid subscriptions and they are all potential victims of abuse. Just P1.00 load stolen from each of them everyday means P40-million pesos in ugly immoral profits for certain companies which we already know.

But will the government act? We honestly do not know because the policy of this government is that of deregulation, falsely assuming that profit-hungry and socially-irresponsible companies would not commit thievery or hoodwink their subscribers. (Plus, the telcos and the big companies that own them wield considerable influence — these telcos are joint ventures of the country’s elite in partnership with foreign telcos.). Yes, government may not act and may be prevented from doing so by lobbyists, but we should compel it, we must force it to act and act with dispatch.

We’ve been paying value-added taxes on all texts and calls, and its about time we get something in return for those hundreds of millions of pesos in taxes that go to operating this government. Besides, the VAT on mobile services form a part of the many other taxes we pay to this government. In short, government must recognize that we are entitled to state protection from theft of all kinds, now including cellphone load theft.

The National Telecommunications Commission should look into the operations of the autoloading or electronic loading by Smart, Globe and Sun Cellular and find out whether consumer complaints are being handled properly — meaning, subscribers get refunds or rebates for glitches in the system. The NTC must also set up more offices so that people may be able to report their concerns and the daily abuses they take from the telcos.

Meanwhile, the telcos are dutybound to respond to all complaints from their subscribers. Their congressional franchises are not licenses to steal and hoodwink. They must be able to deliver telecommunications services at the most affordable rates, and ensure that subscribers get what they are supposed to receive from the money they pour into their highly profitable industry.

We as consumers should not take things sitting down. We must carry on the TXTPower tradition started in 2001: always remembering that power lies in the hands of a united people. No corrupt president or abusive telco or irresponsible government agency may stop us if we are united and we demand concrete action on our just demands.

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