Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The robber-gods of 'text'

If you are a pre-paid mobile phone user, read this.

Your mobile phone service provider may be stealing your ‘load’. The amount, since the very beginning of time, could run up to your entire lifetime earnings.

I am exaggerating, of course, but if you are the Senate President like Juan Ponce Enrile, and you lost something like P600 in phone ‘load’, what would you do?

Enrile called the service providers, also called ‘telcos’ to the Senate and gave them a dressing down when they couldn’t explain what happened to the P600 ‘load’.

You see, Enrile doesn’t know how to ‘download’ ringtones, so when Globe Telecom officials told him his P600 ‘load’ vanished without a trace because he was ‘downloading’ ring tones, the 85-year old solon was furious.

“I don’t even know how to text,” he said.

It was a gotcha! moment for Globe, and I could see the officials of Smart Communications squirming on their seats because their company, too, like Globe, ‘robs’ the public, the consumers, through various pre-paid promos and services without their permission. This is also true with the other smaller ‘telcos’.

No need to prove it. I, myself, regularly receive inane, useless, syntax-tortured promo messages from Globe and Smart which irritates me no end and which brings me to the point of throwing away my mobile phones—when I still have two—to the garbage bin.

These messages aren’t free. They cost you something, like emotional imbalance, because I, for example, tend to have a very bad day when I read garbage in my phone, such as ringtone alerts or noise masquerading as popular music. These, the ‘telcos’ send to 90 million Filipinos without their permission.

OK. I am exaggerating. It’s only 91 million.

Enrile’s beef was that the ‘telcos’ enrol every prepaid mobile phone users to promos and useless services without their consent and then—in the dead of the night—rob them of their ‘load’. That’s hold-up. That’s robbery. That needs to be stopped.

Well, in this country, ‘telcos’ substitute themselves for our parents. They ‘enrol’ us, and they earn millions of pesos from it.

The Senate committees on trade and commerce and public services are conducting an inquiry on the issue of disappearing ‘loads’ after Enrile lost his P600 in May and delivered a privilege speech about it.
I am happy the Senate President cares for small consumers. He is rich. P600 to him is loose change, but because it was stolen by the ‘telcos’, they now faces the Senate’s wrath.

It’s high time. ‘Telcos’ are very well known for their loud advertisements that inundate every corner of the land and saturate every opportune airtime, but they are short, very short, on service delivery. They are so lousy, in fact, that they should not be called ‘service providers’. They are service sellers. Or short-changers.

In their ads, they promise paradise, but deliver you to hell. Try calling their service numbers. A machine answers. And in very rare instances when a human with a sarcastic voice happens to respond to an inquiry, he or she will give you a run-around that you will pity yourself why you called in the first place.

So, what does the Senate intend to do about the ‘disappearing loads’?

Mar Roxas, the Senate’s resident consumer welfare advocate, said the Senate should amend the law and review the franchises of the ‘telcos’.

This delivered the message. The Congress grants the franchises of the ‘telcos’ so they better behave.

I would suggest: “Put them in their proper places through regulation.” I know the word ‘regulation’ is anathema to business, but if there’s no regulation, then we become a jungle. The ‘telcos’ will survive by devouring us, the consumers.

And while the Senate is contemplating to amend the franchises of the ‘telcos’, the gods of ‘text’ that have gotten fat and lazy and continues to steal our ‘load’, perhaps, it should first focus on the so-called ‘content providers’ that the ‘telcos’ are in cahoots with.

These are the companies that manufacture ringtones, games, promos and the like, which the mobile phone firms deliver to the consumers without their permission. These ‘content providers’, last I heard, are not being regulated. They share their profits with the mobile phone companies.

Are they paying taxes?

In the next hearing, I would like the Senate to delve into the corporate structures, ownerships, and finances of these ‘content providers’ and their relationships with the mobile phone companies. Here, I can sense something fishy.

I’ll ‘text’ you why.

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