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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on April 14)

All Headlines 09:50 April 14, 2018

Lowering phone bills
: Telecom firms should put consumers before profits

The Supreme Court ordered the country's three main mobile carriers to disclose their cost breakdowns for telecom fees. The ruling opened the way for consumers to demand the disclosure of the phone billing system, which the telecom firms have refused to make public under the pretext of protecting business secrets.

We welcome the top court's decision, which made it clear that the cost breakdown is information to which the public should have free access.

The administrative suit goes back seven years. In 2011, the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, a local advocacy group, called for the Korea Communications Commission to share documents on profits and losses of the three mobile carriers ― SK Telecom, KT and LG U+ ― as well as business-related data and detailed financial statements.

The KCC, headed by a confidant of former President Lee Myung-bak, rejected the demand, saying such data contained trade secrets of private companies, siding with businesses instead of consumers.

The opaque and unreasonable billing system and suspected price fixing by the three mobile carriers have long been the source of complaints among consumers. The three operators have devised their billing system in ways to force consumers to use high price-range fees. Compared with other countries, Korea's billing system provides absurdly small data in the low price range while slapping hefty surcharges if consumers exceed their limits.

Telecom services are public goods. People have the right to enjoy high-quality services at affordable prices. The industry needs to provide far more diverse rate payment systems than now, allowing consumers to use more data at lower prices. The three companies have been negligent in such efforts under a virtual oligopoly.

Lowering phone bills was one of President Moon Jae-in's campaign pledges. If mobile carriers continue to turn a deaf year to the public's legitimate demands, the government needs to rationalize their billing system by law. Telecom companies ought to reflect on their past before complaining about the government's intervention in the free market.

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