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Consumers council calls for close scrutiny of True-DTAC merger deal


The merger deal between True Corporation (True) and Total Access Communication (DTAC) must be transparent, while the telecom watchdog must listen to consumers, the Thailand Consumers Council (TCC) said on Friday.

Saree Ongsomwang, the council’s secretary-general, said they disagreed with the deal struck last year as it will reduce consumers' alternatives and increase costs for them.

Citing a study in Britain, she said consumers will have to bear a 20 per cent rise in expenses due to the reduction in mobile operators from four to three.

She pointed out that the number of large mobile operators in Thailand will decrease to two operators if the merger deal is allowed: the new entity and Advanced Info Services (AIS).

"Hence, the council has urged the watchdog – the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) – and related agencies to act on this deal carefully," she said.

 

Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) president Dr Somkiat Tangkitvanich said the merger deal would result in two scenarios: boost mobile companies' potential in various aspects, such as cost management and innovation, or cause market domination.

He explained that agencies responsible for telecommunication in many countries usually revoke a merger deal if other mobile operators oppose it.

"However, no one has opposed the True-DTAC merger deal as AIS’ share price has risen in response to the merger news," he said.

Somkiat said the True-DTAC merger deal will benefit the three large mobile operators, adding that this move also affects startups and innovators as they have to bear the rise in production costs.

"Meanwhile, during the transition to the digital economy, Thailand will face market domination both domestic and overseas, resulting in difficulties in competition," he said.

He also had three advices for the NBTC regarding the True-DTAC merger deal:

– Revoke the deal and reduce the infrastructure cost. If DTAC wants to quit the Thailand market, it should sell the company to other entrepreneurs, other than True and AIS.

– Allow the merger, but the NBTC must allocate spectrum licences to cover new entrepreneurs.

– Allow the merger, but it must come with promotion of new competitors.

Consumers council calls for close scrutiny of True-DTAC merger deal

Sarunee Achawanantakul, an independent academic in economics, said the NBTC should take action on this merger deal.

She pointed out that True and DTAC may have shared their secret information which could lead to unfairness in competition.

However, NBTC commissioner Dr Prawit Leesatapornwongsa said the watchdog has to consider various aspects of the merger deal, both short term and long term, based on benefits to consumers, such as impact on market, the number of competitors, infrastructure management and secret benefits between two mobile operators.

He said the NBTC also has to conduct a parallel study, such as setting up advisers or committees consisting of independent experts to consider this issue.

"In case the deal is revoked, the consideration must cover how to reduce entrepreneurs' infrastructure cost and how to promote new competitors," he said.

He explained that merger deals in many countries resulted in allowing two mobile operators to merge, while some countries attached conditions, or revoked the deal.

He added that the matter would be considered by the newly appointed NBTC members. The names of the new members are expected to be announced within two weeks.

By Jarupong Krisanaraj

Published : February 18, 2022

By : THE NATION