Vietnamese mobile phone users ‘pickpocketed’ by networks

By Ngoc Tuyen   September 29, 2016 | 05:30 pm GMT+7
Vietnamese mobile phone users ‘pickpocketed’ by networks
Vietnamese mobile phone users are losing money on add-on services they haven't known about. Photo by VnExpress/Anh Quan

Third party services that users know nothing about are costing billions per day.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade has recently warned Vietnamese citizens about overcharging by mobile network providers.

The warning follows complaints by mobile subscribers who say they have to pay up to a million dong per month for add-on mobile services the network operators automatically provide them.

Duc from Ho Chi Minh City, who has four numbers from a key mobile network carrier, said that for years, he has been paying about VND900,000 ($40) per month for 10 services that he hasn’t registered for.

Some days ago, he also received a message saying that he had successfully installed another service. Though Duc followed instructions about how to cancel the service, it took a long time before he was successful.

This problem is facing existing and new mobile subscribers.

Tien from Hanoi said that as soon as he bought a new SIM card and added VND100,000 ($4.4) to his account, the carrier deducted VND70,000 ($3) to renew a mobile service.

“I hadn’t registered for the service and my phone number was new, so how was it automatically renewed?” Tien said.

Vietnamese consumers losing money for unknown services isn’t something new.

Management agencies under the Ministry of Information & Communications said that they have received many similar complaints from Vietnamese mobile users. Network operators, in response, denied responsibility as the services were provided by third parties.

Hanoi’s Department of Information recently uncovered a case involving Sam Media, a Hong Kong-based company, which cooperated with four Vietnamese carriers to steal VND230 billion ($10 million) from 94,000 mobile users over two years. These users received advertising messages from Sam Media, which they thought were free, but cost VND3,000-5,000 ($0.1-0.2) per day.

After the case was uncovered, Sam Media was given a paltry fine of VND55 million ($2,400).

Vo Van Khang from the Vietnam Information Security Association, Southern Branch, said that Vietnamese operators should be held responsible if mobile users lose money for add-on services. He explained that these operators allowed third parties to access their customers and in return, make a huge profit.

According to some experts, external service suppliers often pay 60-70 percent of the revenue they make to the operators.

Each year, an operator can make dozens of trillion of dong while Vietnamese users are being ‘pickpocketed’ around VND4 billion ($176,000) a day.

Experts agree that it’s time the government should impose strict penalties on mobile network operators to prevent further violations.

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