The national telecom regulator must immediately terminate the expiry date for prepaid mobile service or face legal action, warns an independent analyst.
Anupap: Urges upset users to petition
Anupap Tiralap urged mobile users unhappy about having an expiry date to petition the Administrative Court to act against the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC).
He criticised the regulator for wilful neglect of its statutory duty to force mobile operators to scrap the expiry date on prepaid mobile service, as these dates breach international regulation standards.
"The NBTC is also violating the Telecommunications Business Act of 2006, which prohibits prepaid refill cards from having expiration dates," said Mr Anupap.
"Prepaid mobile-phone customers in Thailand are clearly treated like second-class citizens, as they are tied to substandard service contracts."
Refill card validity varies from 30 days to one year.
If subscribers do not use up all the call value within the period, they must top up their cards if they want to continue using the service regardless of the leftover call value.
Under the new rule, the NBTC is supposed to impose a fine of 100,000 baht per violation per day on operators that limit the expiration date to 30 days on prepaid mobile service.
But in practice, the regulator still allows operators to do this since they claim they are forced to pay a mobile numbering fee to maintain inactive prepaid numbers.
But Mr Anupap stressed that telecom law stipulates prepaid mobile users must no longer be subject to expiry dates.
Thailand has more than 80 million mobile users, 90% of them on prepaid service plans.
NBTC figures show most prepaid subscribers buy 300 baht worth of call value per month, but mobile operators report 200 baht as the average prepaid revenue per user per month.
This suggests users leave 100 baht on their card each month.
With some 72 million prepaid phone users, this means the leftover call value after the validity period ends is 7.2 billion baht a month or 86.4 billion a year.
Mr Anupap also slammed the NBTC for failing to make mobile operators deliver on their promises regarding third-generation (3G) broadband speeds.
Licence requirements stipulate operators are obliged to deliver 3G service at a minimum download speed of 345 kilobits per second and 153 Kbps for uploads.
"We are closely monitoring the quality of 3G service and plan legal action against the regulator if there is no improvement," said Mr Anupap.
About the author
- Writer: Srisamorn Phoosuphanusorn
Position: Deputy Business Editor