By Na Jeong-ju
The Seoul Administrative Court ordered the country’s telecommunications watchdog Thursday to release data on how mobile carriers set their rates for their second-and third-generation services between 2005 and 2011.
The verdict is expected to put greater pressure on firms to lower mobile fees amid speculation that they charge excessive rates.
The court ruled in favor of a civic group which filed a suit against the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) in July last year after the KCC rejected its petition to publish the data.
At the time, the commission claimed making public such information could infringe on business interests of mobile carriers.
“The KCC must reveal the requested data to serve public interest. We can’t determine that doing so is against the interest of the firms,” Judge Park Jeong-hwa said. “Rather, keeping the information secret doesn’t comply with existing laws.”
The judge, however, turned down a petition from the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy to reveal some sensitive business information, including the firms’ assets, depreciation expenses and operational costs.
The long-term evolution (LTE) service for smartphones, currently the flagship business for mobile carriers, was excluded from the ruling.
The civic group welcomed the verdict, saying it will step up a public campaign to achieve cheaper mobile rates.
“Thursday’s ruling means keeping how mobile rates are set secret is against the public’s interest. Accordingly, we will demand related information from the firms and the KCC and try to prove that they have charged excessively,” said Cho Hyung-soo, a lawyer for the group.
“We will consider whether to file a petition to demand information on the LTE service as well.”
The nation’s three telecom carriers — SK Telecom, KT Corp. and LG Uplus — already cut the monthly basic rate by 1,000 won last year but pressure is to continue amid inflation.
The mobile rate could become a campaign issue ahead of the Dec. 19 presidential election as political parties are moving to include it on the main campaign agenda.
The ruling Saenuri Party earlier promised that it will pressure firms to cut rates for voice calls by 20 percent, with another 20 percent discounted for used handsets or imported ones. Under the scheme, the carriers may lose a combined 1 trillion won in revenue each year.
Opposition parties have also promised to keep pressuring carriers to abolish their basic rate and subscription fees and provide text messages for free.
The moves were triggered by a series of reports that showed charges were among the highest phone rates of the member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).