Pressure group seeks clarity from NBTC on issue of 2nd letter to PM, as the regulator seeks to close TRUE-DTAC deal

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The Citizens for Freedom in Communication today went to the Office of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to submit a letter of complaint seeking clarity on the reasons why the NBTC sent a 2nd letter to the Prime Minister seeking clarifications on the planned merger of the 2nd and 3rd largest mobile phone operators in Thailand.

The Citizens for Freedom in Communication group, a body that has been opposed to the amalgamation of 2nd largest mobile phone operator in Thailand – True Corp Plc (TRUE) and 3rd largest mobile phone operator – Total Access Communications Plc (DTAC), petitioned the NBTC’s chairman and the entire board of NBTC, on why the 2nd letter was sent.

The group came out to say that by sending the 2nd letter, it looked as though Dr Sarana Boonbaichaiyapruck, Chairman of the NBTC, as well as the entire NBTC, were not fulfilling their obligations and accused the NBTC of ‘escaping’ from their duties as an independent organization.

The Citizen for Freedom of Communication said that such as act of sending the 2nd letter was in a way looking for the executive branch to interfere in controlling NBTC and thus in effect exercising the powers over NBTC, which is supposed to be and independent body.

As a sign of their dissatisfaction the group broke blue and red SIMs to demonstrate their position and opposition to the amalgamation of the TRUE and DTAC.

A representative of the Citizens for Freedom in Communication group said that NBTC, as an independent organization under Section 60 of the Constitution, must protect the interests of the general public, the nation and business operators, and their job is not just protecting the interests only of business operators.

1st Letter Rejected

The Citizens for Freedom in Communication said that the Council of State has in the past rejected the petition on July 27th, 2022, saying that it could not accept the request to consider because this was an issue that was a matter of litigation in the courts.

The NBTC had sent this letter to the Council of State on May 12th, 2022.

The group therefore says that the NBTC should not have sent the 2nd letter to the Council of State for the 2nd time.

The group says that this action was in conflict with the Section 60 of the Constitution and insisted that the business merger would have an impact on consumers who would have to take the burden of service fees increased by 2.03-244.50% (citing the NBTC’s own study).

They say that this may lower the opportunity to reduce prices, as in the past when there was a high level of competition. If the merger was approved, besides reducing choices for consumers, it was also giving more power to investors who were able to operate cross-industry, with management moved from shops and booths to 7-Eleven stores because it was no longer necessary to pay commissions to stores for selling products.

The group had the sincere hope that NBTC would be strong in carrying out its duties as an independent organization with the obligation to regulate competition to be free and fair, and not be the cause of reduced competition, which may affect the interests of consumers and the country as specified in the Constitution of Thailand.

“It is uncertain as to whether he (Prime Minister and the Council of State) would have an order, of which it is hoped that the powers of the Prime Minister will order the Council of State to help provide an interpretation. If he assists us to interpret we will be very grateful,” Trairat Viriyasirikul, acting NBTC secretary-general said.

“We are indeed an independent organization, but we like to hear the opinions of many parties, because this matter is a big matter. If he rebuffs us, it will not affect the time clauses of the Committee’s considerations.”

After that, Citizens for Freedom in Communication group travelled to the Trade Competition Commission Thailand (TCCT) to submit a document demanding TCCT to consider the merger between TRUE and DTAC, which is an amalgamation of the two private companies. The merger would reduce 3 big operators to 2, making the business merger into market duopoly, thus reducing service alternatives for the public, whether choice on price, choice on after-sales service or choice on service quality.

Monyos Wanataput, acting secretary-general of the Trade Competition Commission Thailand, said after receiving the matter from the Citizens for Freedom in Communication group today,

“The Commission is familiar with this matter and is operating according to procedure after receiving the letter of complaint,” Monyos Wanataput, acting secretary-general of the Trade Competition Commission Thailand, said after receiving the letter.

“The board is currently considering adding it to the considerations to decide on the merger between TRUE and DTAC. We do not deny the responsibility of the obligation to deal with this matter.”

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