Thailand has released a notification adding new consumer protection provisions related to the collection of prepaid telecom service fees and combining several disparate regulations and resolutions. The Notification on the Criteria Relating to the Collection of Prepaid Telecommunications Service Fees was issued on September 4, 2023, and came into effect on September 21, 2023.
The notification will be enforced as a general regulation and guideline for all telecom services other than fixed broadband services, which already fall under a comparable regulation.
Previously, Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) had issued several regulations to regulate the collection of prepaid telecom service fees. These include the NBTC Notification on Contract Standards, the NBTC Notification on the Maximum Service Fee Rate and Collection of Prepaid Telecommunications Service Fees, and the NBTC Notification on the Criteria Relating to the Collection of Prepaid Fixed High-Speed Broadband Service Fees. These are now subsumed by the new notification.
Key requirements of the new notification on prepaid telecom fee collection are described below.
Collection Approval Requirement
Before collecting prepaid telecom service fees, service providers (SPs) must apply to the NBTC for approval by submitting the required forms and supporting documents. Changes to the criteria and methods of prepaid telecom service fee collection must also be reapproved. This provision aims to protect against fraud and money-laundering transactions.
The NBTC will consider whether to approve an SP’s proposal for the maximum period to be covered by the prepaid service fees on a case-by-case basis.
After the collection criteria and methods are approved by the NBTC, SPs must inform their users individually. SPs must also report to the NBTC by the 15th of every month after receiving the NBTC’s approval to collect prepaid service fees.
Approvals of prepaid service fee collection granted by the NBTC prior to the new notification are still effective, but SPs must obtain new approval for any changes or differences from the previously approved collection criteria and methods.
The new notification also includes several provisions aimed at protecting users of prepaid telecom services:
- SPs must not set a time limit before which users have to complete their use of a prepaid telecom service except when approved by the NBTC, which may set conditions relating to transfers of remaining value, refunds of excess service fees, minimum terms for using the service, or registration of users’ names and addresses.
- SPs must allow users to choose between prepaid and postpaid telecom service fee collection via similar channels, and must allow them to change their choice. If the service conditions prevent the collection of service charges after service usage or the end of the billing cycle, or if it creates an undue burden on the users, SPs may ask the NBTC for its approval to offer only postpaid collection. To obtain NBTC approval, SPs must justify their request with supporting evidence.
- Any rewards or discounts offered to users for choosing prepaid collection must be reasonable, fair, and in proportion to the period for collecting the prepaid fee. SPs must inform users of the exact value of the rewards or discounts before they enter into service contracts.
- SPs must set the service charges for prepaid services before giving rewards or discounts in a manner that does not differ significantly from the service charges for postpaid services with similar quality, volume, and service standards offered or provided in the market.
- When collecting any other charges as specified in the service contract for both prepaid or postpaid services, SPs must inform users of the objective of collecting the charges and specify each charge separately in the telecom service statement. For example, if an SP charges a telecom service user for telecom equipment installation, the statement from the SP must show the installation charge as a separate item from the telecom service.
Refunds and Returns
The new notification on prepaid telecom fee collection assigns obligations to both SPs and users in relation to termination of a telecom service contract or change or cancellation of a service package.
In such a case, SPs must refund the prepaid service fee and any remaining unused balance, including VAT, in proportion to the remaining unused service. The SP must notify the user when the refund is complete.
To receive a refund from an SP, users must return any reward or discount received from the SP in proportion to the service that has already been used. However, if the cause of termination, change, or cancellation is the SP’s fault, the user does not need to return the reward or discount.
SPs must obtain approval from the NBTC regarding the details of service fee refunds and reward and discount returns before proceeding with prepaid collection.
For further information, please contact:
Charuwan Charoonchitsathian, Partner, Tilleke & Gibbins