Consumer protection group opposes True-DTAC merger in letter to NBTC
The People’s Network Protecting Public Interest on Thursday submitted a letter to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), strongly opposing the planned merger of two large telecom operators.
The group submitted an open letter, which was addressed to NBTC chairman Sarana Boonbaichaiyapruck, opposing the amalgamation of True Corporation and Total Accession Communication (DTAC).
The letter said the merger, if approved by the NBTC, would cause grave damage to the consumers and to public interest.
The letter cited a figure of the NBTC Office to back its opposition. It said the NBTC reported that there are now 141 million mobile phone numbers and 132 million of them are provided by the three leading operators -- Advanced Info Service (AIS), True and DTAC.
The letter said the three leading operators provide service to 93 per cent of mobile phone numbers in the market so they have influence in the market.
It said if the second and third largest operators in terms of subscribtion numbers -- True and DTAC -- are allowed to merge, it would create a duopoly in the telecom industry and the consumers would definitely be taken advantage. Service prices would definitely rise without giving choices to consumers.
The letter also cited a study by Chulalongkorn University to back its opposition. The letter said the study showed that if the number of key players in the telecom industry are reduced from three to two, each would command market share of at least 45 per cent and service prices would increase by 20 to 30 per cent in the long run.
The letter said Thai consumers had already suffered enough after the government agency in charge of supervising free trade had allowed the merger of a large retailer and wholeseller, allowing a large conglomerate to control the market from the start to the finish. It alleged that the monopoly of retailing and wholeselling by the conglomerate had caused consumer goods prices to rise, causing suffering to the people.
The letter said all sectors had earlier hoped that the new NBTC members would carry out their duties efficiently, without being influenced by any funds or conglomerates.
But, the letter said, reports pointed out that the new NBTC appeared to follow the footsteps of the caretaker NBTC that it succeeded by considering the merger on grounds that the NBTC has to observe the existing laws and regulations earlier enacted by the NBTC.
Earlier, the new NBTC held a focus group public hearing among those related to the telecom industry and business partners of telecom operators. Most participants voiced support for the merger.
The NBTC has yet to listen to the opinions of academics and consumer groups in two more focus group hearings.
The letter said the NBTC's citing of restrictions of law and regulations had raised concerns among consumer groups that the watchdog would eventually approve the merger and repeat the mistake of allowing the merger of the retailer and a whole seller.
The network called on the NBTC to carry out its duty of adhering to the principle of free and fair trade without allowing itself to be influenced by large corporates.
The letter warned that if the NBTC approved the merger, it would be condemned as the one who had tainted the history of Thai telecom industry.