Big Three reject National Credit Bureau data system

Major mobile operators are encouraged to share mobile usage data with the credit bureau system. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)

The three major mobile operators oppose a plan to join their customers’ mobile data with citizen data from the National Credit Bureau (NCB) system.

The latest initiative is led by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), focusing on cases of information exchange between the telecommunications and finance sectors.

In addition, operators urge the telecommunications regulator to discuss with the Ministry of Finance the demarcation of mobile services as a separate category from other utilities as part of the World Bank’s request for information to assess the ease of doing business in Thailand.

Korkij Danchaivichit, deputy general secretary of the NBTC, said the commission has held several talks with mobile operators to obtain their consent to connect general mobile phone data to the NCB system.

The Big Three, which provide services to 98% of the country’s mobile users, remain opposed to the concept, despite the fact that the data could be used for other purposes, including for a neutral benefit to the state, such as evaluating ease of doing business.

According to informal discussions with operator representatives last week, Korkij said mobile operators have claimed they have no idea what benefit they will gain by connecting their data to BCN.

On the contrary, operators are more likely to pay more fees in the future, such as member registration fees and fees on specific transaction data when they need to acquire them from the NCB system.

“Mobile operators have claimed that their operations do not need customer data from banks or financial institutions, even e-wallet services that facilitate people who do not have a bank account,” M said. Korkij.

Operators urged the finance ministry through the NBTC to reconsider, he said.

Operators have their own processes for collecting and analyzing data, and mobile services have increasingly developed a role in other industries and people’s digital lifestyles.

Instead, operators want to jointly establish their own clearinghouse for mobile user data, which would be connected to the NCB. Financial institutions and banks may have to pay fees through the clearinghouse when they need mobile user data.

Operators would also only allow mobile usage data in their postpaid system, which is usually connected to the NCB system, as the prepaid system has no outstanding debt.

Currently, the postpaid system represents 15-20% of total subscriptions. Mobile operators are faced with unpaid debts only in the postpaid system or some cases of violation of WiFi router installation contracts.

The NCB chief recently insisted on collecting data from utility providers, starting with mobile use. These data are available from the three main mobile operators: Advanced Info Service Plc (AIS), True Move H Universal Communication (TUC) and Total Access Communication Plc (DTAC).

According to the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business (EODB) 2020 project, the NCB is required to provide additional information to utility companies, retailers and traders, and commercial creditors.

Utility providers include those dealing with telecommunications, electricity, running water, gas, and similar services.

Retailers and traders are defined as department stores, furniture stores, car dealers and others, while commercial creditors refer to those who provide trade credit to business customers and supplier credit.

Thailand’s ranking among 190 economies in the World Bank’s 2019 EODB report fell a notch to 27th, although its overall score improved by 1.06 points to 78.45.

Thailand’s score, an absolute measure of the country’s progress towards global best practices, fell from 77.39 the year before.

Korkij: Personal information would be protected

Mr Korkij said he would raise the operators’ counter-proposal during the next discussion with representatives of the BCN or the Ministry of Finance.

The NBTC amends the details of the Telecom Business Act to allow the use of general data on mobile phone use for other purposes, including to assess the ease of doing business.

Currently, the Telecom Business Act allows operators to use their customers’ general data only for the purposes of telecommunications services.

General data, such as the amount or length of mobile use of a customer each day, could be used to improve the efficiency of certain public services such as transportation through innovative technology such as Internet of Things connectivity.

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