SUNDAY, February 25, 2024

Consumer protection group calls for delay in approval of DTAC-True merger

Consumer protection group calls for delay in approval of DTAC-True merger

The Thailand Consumers Council (TCC) on Monday called for a delay in the decision on the merger of two telecom firms, pending appointment of the new telecom watchdog.

The TCC expessed its opposition to the approval of the merger between Total Access Communication Plc (DTAC) and True Corporation Plc in an open letter to watchdog National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).

Signed by TCC telecom subcommittee chairwoman Supinya Klangnarong, the letter called on the outgoing NBTC not to make any decision on the merger and instead defer to the new watchdog, whose seven commissioners are awaiting royal appointments.

True and DTAC announced their merger plan to pursue a new tech business and provide venture capital for startups. Their merger plan has been approved by their respective executive boards but since the two are major telecom operators, their merger has yet to be endorsed by the NBTC.

The letter said if the two telecom firms were to go ahead with the merger, the new telecom firm would control up to 52 per cent of market share and would be able to influence the market, leading to unfair practices.

The letter also voiced concern that the merger would reduce choices for consumers, and would lead to wider gaps in digital access as the new firm might unfairly raise prices of mobile phone services and Internet access services.

The letter reminded the NBTC it had once pledged to prevent monopoly or any action that would lead to unfair market practices. The letter said it would be appropriate for the current NBTC to leave the decision to the new board so that there could be transparency and public interest can be taken into account.

Speaking to reporters after submitting the letter, Supinya said the NBTC has the authority to prevent monopoly or unfair market practices, so it should carry out its duties as the regulator, not just a registrar of the merger.

She said the Thai telecom market has not reached free-market state yet and it was only an oligopoly. The merger would create a duopoly and there could be collusion between them to create a monopoly, compromising the interests of consumers.

“Society is waiting for the new NBTC to take office. This is a big issue that requires righteousness both in the legal and social aspects, so the current NBTC should stop considering the issue and let the next set of office bearers deal with it,” Supinya said.

Earlier, the Thailand Development Research Institute and academics from 86 universities nationwide signed a petition for the NBTC to act against the merger.