Norwegian Ambassador accepts letter from group opposing planned TRUE-DTAC merger

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The Group of Citizens for Freedom in Telecoms submitted a document to Norwegian Ambassador to Thailand – Kjersti Rodsmoen, on the issue to put on hold the planned merger of True Corporation Plc (TRUE) and Total Access communication Plc (DTAC).

The move to ask the Norwegian government comes as opposition to the planned merger continues and Norwegian government is a shareholder in Telenor which in turn is the single largest shareholder in DTAC.

The Group of Citizens for Freedom in Telecoms demanded the Norwegian government to pressure Telenor, Dtac’s parent company, to consider putting the imminent merger on hold, because it would cause a market monopoly in Thai mobile phone services.

A duopoly of the merged entity and Advanced Info Service Plc (ADVANC) would create a grievance for consumers and impact the rights and freedoms of the public, who face interference in their access to information if the deal goes ahead, the Group of Citizens for Freedom in Telecoms said. This would create a grievance for consumers and impact the rights and freedoms of the public, who face interference in their access to information if the deal goes ahead, they said.

“We are aware of the grievance and what has happened, and we have even taken this public announcement to Telenor and the Norwegian government. May I confirm that this matter will be investigated, and if there are irregularities or violations of good corporate governance in Norway, we will not be negligent when considering this merger. Telenor is Norway’s third largest company, and the embassy will assist as an intermediary to further this announcement.”

Norwegian Ambassador to Thailand – Kjersti Rodsmoen accepts letter from the group

The group also handed a statement to the ambassador which reads as below.

The Statement of the Citizens’ Group for Freedom of Communication

On the Merger between True Corporation Public Company Limited (TRUE) and Total Access Communication Public Company Limited (DTAC)

The Citizens’ Group for Freedom of Communication is gravely concerned over the merger between True Corporation Public Company Limited (TRUE) and Total Access Communication Public Company Limited (DTAC).

  1. The merger proposal of the two companies violates Section 21 of the Telecommunications Business Act, which states that:

“In the telecommunications business operation, other than being subject to the law on trade competition, the Commission shall prescribe specific measure according to the characteristics of the telecommunications business operation to prevent the licensee from carrying out any act that is monopolistic, or that reduces or limits the competition in the provision of telecommunications service in the following matters:

(1) subsidisation of services;

(2) holding in businesses of the same category of service;

(3) abuse of market power;

(4) anti-competition behavior;

(5) protection of small entrepreneurs.”

  • The merger between True Corporation Public Company Limited (TRUE) and Total Access Communication Public Company Limited (DTAC) will result in a decrease in the number of telecommunications businesses. To be precise, only two main service providers will remain. This will affect the consumers both in terms of service quality as well as pricing. It will also impede the development and competition in a digital economy, for which Thailand and countries all over the world strive in this modern world. At present, DTAC owns a mobile subscriber market share of 19.6 million numbers (20%), TRUE has 32.2 million numbers (34), while AIS has 44.1 million numbers (46%). It is evident that the merger between True Corporation Public Company Limited (TRUE) and Total Access Communication Public Company Limited (DTAC) will reduce the number of major service providers to two and increase the combined market share to more than half allowing the merged company to influence the market both in terms of pricing and service quality.
  • In addition, the Group is concerned for the people’s freedom of communication, which should remain free from interference by private companies or the state. Given the potential reduced number of telecommunication service providers, the interference, harassment, restriction, and blocking of the access to information will be allowed to happen more easily. This is especially the case now, when the spyware technology is regularly used by the state to obtain an unauthorized access to activists and dissidents’ data. According to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), corporates also have the responsibility to respect human rights. In the second pillar, it has been stressed that business individuals and enterprises, regardless of their categories or size, have the responsibility to respect human rights.

The Group is aware that Telenor, the mother company of Total Access Communication Public Company Limited (DTAC), recognizes the importance of good governance and human rights, as seen in Telenor’s opinion that telecommunication is crucial in people’s exchange and communication and is a part of the freedom of expression as well as right to privacy. Maintaining this value will be proven difficult, if the merger involves a domestic company having in place human rights and privacy policies that are below Telenor’s standards.

Therefore, we would like to urge Telenor to halt this merger proposal between True Corporation Public Company Limited (TRUE) and Total Access Communication Public Company Limited (DTAC). Moreover, we would also like to request the Government of Norway to consider whether the merger proposal between True Corporation Public Company Limited (TRUE) and Total Access Communication Public Company Limited (DTAC) is in accordance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

            These three demands are urgent as the voting of the meeting of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications is set to take place on 10 August 2022.

            Thank you in advance for your consideration.

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