Pressure Group Asks Telecom Regulator to Stop True-DTAC Merger Deal

Representatives of Citizens for Freedom in Communication group submit a petition against the True-DTAC merger deal to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission on Aug. 28, 2022.
Representatives of Citizens for Freedom in Communication group submit a petition against the True-DTAC merger deal to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission on Aug. 28, 2022.

The group of Citizens for Freedom in Communication, travelled to the Office of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to submit a letter of complaint to Clinical Prof. Dr. Sarana Boonbaichaiyapruck, Chairman of the Commission, as well as the entire NBTC, in the case of NBTC sending a document to the Prime Minister for the Council of State to consider its powers in considering the merger of these two businesses for the second time.

This showed its intentions and attempts to escape fulfilling its obligations as an independent organization under the Constitution by consenting for the executive branch to have an interfering role in controlling NBTC’s exercise of its powers, which is clearly in conflict with the Constitution.

The group broke blue and red SIMs to demonstrate their position and opposition to the amalgamation of the True and Dtac businesses. Representatives 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, which is not protecting the interests only of business operators.

They must not be dominated by the power of the executive branch, after NBTC sent a document to the Council of State on 12 May 2022, of which the board of the Council of State already responded on 27 July 2022 that they could not accept the request to consider it, because it was a matter subject to litigation in court.

Therefore, NBTC should not have sent the document to the Prime Minister for the Council of State to consider NBTC’s powers in considering the business merger for the second time. This action was in conflict with the Section 60 of the Constitution, with the result of debasing the office of the Prime Minister and the risk of actions in violation of the law.

Citizens for Freedom in Communication group 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), or there may not be an 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.

Trairat Viriyasirikul, acting NBTC secretary-general, provided information in the case of Extremely Urgent document number Sor Tor Chor 2402 sent to the Prime Minister in the matter of requesting assistance for the Committee of the Council of State to consider giving an opinion on the legal issues.

“If the Council of State helps to consider this case, it will be information informing the considerations of NBTC. Sending the matter on the last occasion, the Council of State returned the principle that the matter was in the courts. On this occasion, we put the matter together for another consideration through the Prime Minister. It is uncertain as to whether he 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 assist us to interpret we will be very grateful. 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.

Thailand is the first country in the world to approve a merger reducing three big operators to two, making the business merger into market monopolization, reducing service alternatives for the public, whether choice on price, choice on after-sales service or choice on service quality.

This was because previously, TCCT had the opinion that NBTC had its specific laws and was able to consider the merger for itself. It was saying that if it was a matter of service licenses, spectrum bands or technical matters concerned with the telecom business, it was NBTC’s obligation to regulate.

However, for impacts on competition in the market, TCCT was not able to exercise its powers and responsibilities, and such considerations would be in parallel with the considerations of NBTC.

Mr. 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. 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. This is because, besides being a merger of telecom businesses, there are still other pertinent businesses in the production processes of this group, in which there are similar concerns to those submitted by this group of citizens.”