With enormous profits to be raked in from special service numbers, the Vietnamese mobile network operators have ganged up with content providers to lure customers and further their businesses.
A spam text advertising property on sales (Photo: Minh Tri)
Vietnamese mobile network operators or MNOs such as VinaPhone, Mobifone, Viettel these days provide about 1,000 special service numbers like 5xxx, 6xxx, 7xxx, 8xxx to content providers or CPs for a certain amount of fee.
A contract is signed between CPs and MNOs in which the CPs share a percentage of the total income. When the agreement is signed, the CPs are free to launch their various services such as ringtones, GPRS, psychological counseling and even gambling or sex counseling.
The special service numbers normally consist of four numbers, for instance, XXXX in which the second X identifies the amount of fee payable for each service. # 1 means that the consumer has to pay VND1,000, 2 means VND2,000, 5 means VND5,000, 6 means VND10,000 and 7 means VND15,000.
For each text message, the MNO earns 60-70 percent of the total amount while the CP receives only 30-40 per cent.
Based on this negotiation deal, each message to 87xx will bring its MNO VND10.000 and CP VND5.000. Because of the considerable difference between profit and cost, the MNOs are willing to offer service numbers at their convenience to the CPs, and the CPs make good use of the unregistered SIM cards to advertise their service numbers or lure customers to use their services.
Viettel, VinaPhone and MobiFone have alerted their customers to spam messages from their customer care services. When receiving these messages, the customers are advised not to follow instructions as per the message but access the official websites of MNOs or call the MNOs’ hotline numbers for further information.
According to authorities, this is a serious issue arising from careless management of special service numbers. Profits from these service numbers are so huge that the MNOs leave the CPs free to distribute spam texts for the purpose of advertising or luring customers.
When the CP is caught red-handed in spam text distribution, the MNOs shift the blame onto the CPs and justify their action.
As inspectors of the Ministry of Information and Communication said, it is essential to carefully look into the procedures of providing special service numbers and the management of prepaid SIM cards because the CPs have corrupted their use to collect as many SIM cards as possible and use them for spam texting.
Although such illegal actions are hard to detect, the authorities have managed to detect and penalize two companies, EMOBI Communication and Ha Trung Communication Joint-stock Company in Hanoi for illegal spam texting.
Many customers have been swindled and the total monetary loss is estimated at about VND877 million (US$44,000).