Netflix, Spotify accounts traded dirt-cheap on black market

By Tuan Anh   February 11, 2020 | 07:00 pm PT
Netflix, Spotify accounts traded dirt-cheap on black market
A combination of the logos of online streaming music service Spotify and movie streaming service Netflix. Photo by AFP.
Subscriptions for Netflix and Spotify are available across online black markets at only VND18,000 ($0.77) a month thanks to mass account creators.

All you need to do is enter Spotify or Netflix into your search engine for dozens of ads to immediately appear offering cheap, unofficial deals.

For example, a basic, HD quality Netflix package in Vietnam costs VND180,000 ($7.7) per month. However, a black market equivalent valid up to 12 months is priced between VND18,000-60,000 ($0.77-$2.5).

The phenomenon sprouted over the past two to three years, just as both services officially entered Vietnam, steadily emerging from closed online groups and forums.

Social media and e-commerce sites offering these discount services mostly resemble official counterparts, including standard logos, avatars, etc.

Quang Dung, who provides online content in Hanoi, said the pirated accounts employ anonymous registration information that takes advantage of policy loopholes.

For instance, Netflix allows a one month free trial with any service to Vietnamese users, which are resold via fake accounts depending on price and user number. Cheap accounts rarely offer a smooth ride, however.

Registered for a three-month, 4K package costing VND180,000, Xuan Quy had to recontact the seller after the access password was changed by another user. Moreover, the same account was locked after the first month, forcing the seller to provide another account. As a result, Quy’s archive of favorite movies and shows was lost.

"At that moment, I realized all three, six or 12 month subscriptions are free trial accounts. Therefore, users had to change to a new account each month," Quy explained.

Eventually, online account sellers disappear without a trace.

According to Dung, every Netflix trial account requires a new e-mail address and card number at registration. International payment cards are usually virtual or stolen Visa and Master cards.

Sellers usually require customers to pay in advance via bank transfer or electronic wallet, refusing compensation if services experience problems or get canceled.

In addition, cheap accounts pose the risk of leaked personal data.

Service providers in Vietnam have yet to issue warnings regarding virtual accounts sold at low prices, though both have already announced they would no longer provide free trial offers in Vietnam.

Netflix has been available in Vietnam since 2016 at VND180,000 ($7.8) a month for a basic subscription.

The service, with around 167 million subscribers in over 190 countries and territories by Q4, 2019, has sought to produce and acquire rights for more Asian content to increase its number of global subscribers. The company launched its Vietnamese language website last October.

Spotify, currently available in 79 markets around the world, was launched in Vietnam during 2018. The service boasts around 271 million monthly active users, of which 124 million are premium subscribers, according to its Q4, 2019 financial report.

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