Whose LINE is it?

Whose LINE is it?

Earlier this month, Thai consumers was surprised to find that LINE had launched a mobile service in Thailand. So too was the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), who invited LINE to explain on the matter.

Local news was also in on the matter, telling the story that LINE was renting the network of DTAC TriNet as one of several MVNOs in Thailand, citing a DTAC source – who also told that “Line is a recognised brand in Thailand, and to have Line on our network also allows us to be better known by consumers”. The article from Bangkok Post was ironically available on NBTC’s website

However, several days later, LINE Company (Thailand) provided a letter to the NBTC, stating that Line Thailand is not a mobile carrier, and not a MVNO, but that the Line Mobile service, is a service of DTAC’s subsidiary DTAC TriNet, who has bought the rights to use the brand “LINE Mobile” (brand licensing arrangement), and that LINE Mobile is not related to LINE Thailand or LINE Japan at all.

The next day, NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said that, based on the regulator’s “examination” of the service, LINE Mobile was not a new mobile operator or MVNO, but a new mobile-phone service package of DTAC TriNet, a subsidiary of mobile operator Total Access Communication (DTAC).

Which is still highly questionable, given the interview in Bangkok Post with a DTAC employee regarding LINE Mobile as a MVNO. That DTAC TriNet hasn’t informed the public that they are the provider. That wannabe customers can’t use their existing DTAC SIM or DTAC customer service. That there apparently is a LINE Mobile (Thailand) company in Thailand, as shown on the LINE Mobile (Thailand) LinkedIn profile.

LINE-Mobile-Thailand-Company

It did take LINE Company (Thailand) more than a week to write the letter, and although this is probably an achievement in itself for a company like LINE, who are used to communicate using limited characters and stickers, it is even more amazing that the regulator concluded that – all was fine, and that’s all.

Not only is it exaggerating calling it an “examination“ but the NBTC has not conducted the proceedings in a manner that eliminates consumer confusion, as to the underlying provider of the service, which there obviously has been with consumers, local news and the NBTC itself. Nor has it lived up to its purpose and duties as a regulator of the telecom industry.

If the NBTC conclude that the LINE Mobile service this is not a MVNO, and not from LINE then, as a regulator and with its secretary-general statement “At the NBTC, we take consumer protection work very seriously.”, they have to look into the Consumer Protection Act, as amended by the Consumer Protection Act (No. 2), which states under general standards for advertising and labeling – it is illegal to intentionally cause the public to be misled about the origin, condition, quality, quantity, or other material part of the goods or services of others or of one’s own goods or services.

IT’S DTAC LINE MOBILE

DTAC-LINE-MOBILE

In line with the above – and given that LINE COMPANY (Thailand) says the setup is not them, and not LINE Japan, and not a mobile operator – or an MVNO but DTAC’s subsidiary, DTAC TriNet (Yes! its confusing) then;

1. All advertising, marketing, promotional and information material in regards of the service LINE Mobile, including all apps, websites, retail, outlets, public displays, customer contracts, application forms, SIM card, and SIM starter packs carrying the LINE Mobile logo, should display the DTAC or DTAC TriNet logo in the same size as the LINE Mobile logo, and all references to LINE Mobile should be changed to DTAC LINE Mobile.

2. DTAC must stop providing a dedicated SIM number range to the service, as it misleads consumers to believe LINE Mobile service is a new mobile operator or MVNO.

3. DTAC must change the web address of LINE Mobile services from th.linemobile.com to include DTAC TriNet (e.g. www.dtac.linemobile.co.th or dtn.linemobile.co.th), so consumers who access the DTAC LINE Mobile’s website in Thailand, will immediately be aware that they are on a website, or app for a service provided by DTAC TriNet over DTAC TriNet’s wireless network with DTAC having the responsibility.

4. DTAC must enable DTAC LINE Mobile customers access to DTAC’s customer service directly, and in the first instance. DTAC LINE Mobile customers must be able to have inquiries, requests or complaints answered by calling DTAC’s general customer service support or by visiting a DTAC customer service center. Customers should not be directed to a separate number or a “DTAC LINE Mobile” call center service only.

5. DTAC must ensure that outlets, retail or online, who offer DTAC LINE Mobile branded products and services, also offer other DTAC products and services. A customer seeking telecommunications services or information about those services must have the opportunity to receive information on, or subscribe to any other DTAC service.

6. DTAC must inform the public, and those customers who have already signed up for the service, that the service is from DTAC TriNet and not LINE Company (Thailand) or LINE Japan.

Let’s see if the NBTC will live up to its purpose as a regulator or merely be a license boutique

Author: Allan Rasmussen
Managing director at Yozzo. Allan’s expertise includes the development and execution of growth strategies, market insights, trends and opportunities, new business models and strategies
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