Thai consumer group plans to sue telcos over per-second billing

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Thailand’s Foundation For Consumers plans to launch a class action lawsuit against four telcos with the goal of forcing them to obey an earlier order from the telecoms regulator to adopt per-second billing.

This follows a decision by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission on 11 Jan that confusingly asked all telcos to offer per-second billing on at least 50% of calling plans on offer. In May last year, the NBTC ordered the winners of the 4G (900 and 1800 MHz) auctions to adopt per-second billing as part of Thailand’s confusing but now typical post-auction negotiations, whereby the regulator adds new rules to the auction winners after the auction is over.

Questioned on how the new and old orders could coexist, NBTC Secretary-General Takorn Tantasit denied that the commission had caved in to pressure from the telcos, and said that the new order was simply to give consumers a choice.

Takorn even quoted the Buddha, saying that the NBTC was walking the middle path (between per second and per minute billing).

Foundation for Consumers president Aree Ongsomwang told reporters that the foundation is currently asking people to sign up for the class action lawsuit.

Aree argues that under Thai law, there is no threshold on the number of signatures in order to launch a class action lawsuit that would protect every consumer. However, it is up to the discretion of a judge whether to allow a class action lawsuit or not.

If a judge allows the class action lawsuit to proceed, the foundation will have to announce the lawsuit in three national newspapers for three days, and thereafter will have 45 days to sign up more affected consumers and finalize the list of consumers affected before the first hearing.

Currently, they have signed on 137 customers from AIS, 121 from Dtac, 133 from True and four from CAT Telecom.

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