Firms fined for SIMcard billing mistakes

Wednesday, Dec 25, 2013 17:02

Locations selling prepaid SIMcards have been fined VND2 billion in 2013, according to the Inspectorate of Ministry of Information and Communications. Photo

HA NOI (Biz Hub) — The Inspectorate of the Ministry of Information and Communications discovered mistakes in managing customers buying prepaid SIMcards, fining selling locations nearly VND2 billion (US$95,200) in 2013.

The information was provided by Do Huu Tri, deputy chief inspector of the ministry, in a meeting on Tuesday in Ha Noi.

The mistakes were discovered after the Departments of Information and Communications carried out inspections at 29,377 locations selling SIMcards, out of 48,420 locations across the country, from May 15 to August 30. Inspectors also confiscated 34,667 prepaid SIMcards.

Besides the large-scale investigation which was conducted through December 15, inspectors also fined companies VND3.49 billion ($166 million) for administrative violations in telecommunications and information, media, publishing, online information and posts.

At the meeting, inspectors said companies with large market shares, including Viettel, MobiFone and VinaPhone, have added contents onto SIMcards without asking permission from users.

The inspection results revealed that the three telecom providers have installed their applications (Viettel with Viettel Plus, MobiFone with SuperSim and LiveInfo, VinaPhone with IOD) onto their SIMcards to allow users to download information and determine their remaining credit. They did not, however, provide clear information about service fees, and did not allow users to verify whether they agreed to use the services based upon the companies' price lists.

Between June 2012 and June 2013, VinaPhone had earned VND20.67 billion ($984.2 million) from its services, and MobiFone, which cooperated with 17 content service providers, had taken in VND150.57 billion ($7.17 billion). The total revenues reported by Viettel were not provided at the meeting.

VinaPhone also collaborated with VASC Software and Media Company, under the Viet Nam Posts and Telecommunications Group, or VNPT, to offer a website for users to listen to music, read and download information. They collected fees, but did not set a price for the services. The revenues from the website from July 2012 to May 2013 were VND8.94 billion ($425.7 million).

For charging users for failed text messages, MobiFone had to return VND816.75 million (nearly $38,900), while VinaPhone were required to refund VND692.7 million ($32,990) to subscribers. However, MobiFone and VinaPhone could not return VND227.62 million ($10,840) and VND76.87 million ($3,660), respectively, because of subscribers who had stopped using the network.

Although the report from the inspectorate agency had not listed the specific amount Viettel was required to return to its customers, it did say that the firm continues sending advertisements through text messaging to users who had previously refused to accept ad messages.

Tri said that at this time, officials have not required the companies to stop offering services integrated into SIMcards. However, he said that the companies have a responsibility to resolve this issue and report their results to the ministry. If they do not comply, they will not be allowed to provide services, as stipulated by regulations in Decree No 77 of the Government, which came into effect on January 1, 2013. — VNS

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