Citizens group wants Norway ambassador to help abort DTAC-True deal
A citizens group has handed over a letter to Norway’s ambassador, asking the envoy to help stop the merger of two giant telecom operators.
The Citizens' Group for Freedom of Communication on Wednesday went to the Embassy of Norway in Bangkok to submit a letter to Ambassador Kjersti Rødsmoen.
The letter urged the ambassador to pressure Telenor, a Norwegian company, to stop the merger between its subsidiary, Total Access Communication (DTAC), and True Corporation. They argued that the move would create a monopoly in the Thai mobile services market, affecting consumers and their freedom as their news could be disrupted if the merger were successful.
Rødsmoen said that she understood how the merger would affect consumers and would forward the letter to Telenor and the Norwegian government.
She promised to look into the matter. She said that she would not ignore this matter if the merger was against Norway’s governance practices, because Telenor is the third biggest company in Norway. She added that the embassy would act as a medium in sending the citizens’ letter to Norway.
In the letter, the group said that the merger between these two companies was against Section 21 of the Telecommunications Business Act.
Section 21 of the Telecommunications Business Act, says:
“In the telecommunications business operation, other than being subject to the law on trade competition, the Commission shall prescribe specific measures 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) holdings in businesses of the same category of service;
(3) abuse of market power;
(4) anti-competition behaviour;
(5) protection of small entrepreneurs.”
The group cited that DTAC currently has 20 per cent of market share with 19.6 million subscribers, while True has 34 per cent with 32.2 million subscribers.
Leader Advanced Info Service has 46 per cent market share with 44.1 million subscribers.
The group is worried that the merger between True and DTAC would affect service quality and pricing, as that would leave only two players. The group explained that if a company has more than half of market share, such a company would be able to dictate to the market.
It will also be an obstacle to the development and competition in the digital economy which Thailand and several countries are focusing on for the future.
The group is also concerned that their freedom of communication could be affected as it could allow intervention by the government or a public company.
If the number of telecommunication operators reduces, it would be easier to intervene, threaten, control, or block news, especially in the current situation where the government had used spyware technology to get information on activists without permission, the group said.
The group added that private companies were also responsible for upholding human rights according to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).
The second pillar of UNGPs says that the responsibility of business enterprises to respect human rights applies to all enterprises regardless of their size, sector, operational context, ownership and structure.
The group said that it knew that Telenor respects governance and human rights, as the company has said that telecommunications is important in exchanging opinions and it is a part of freedom of expression including privacy rights.
The group stated that it would be more difficult if the merger was successful in a country where human rights and privacy policies were not in line with Telenor’s standards.
The citizens requested Telenor to stop the merger between DTAC and True and asked the Norwegian government to investigate if the merger met UNGP guidelines.