PayPal suspension to hit Thais amid tough market
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PayPal suspension to hit Thais amid tough market

Global online payment PayPal is scheduled to suspend most services for consumers, freelancers and sole proprietors in Thailand from March 7 as it is seeking ways to comply with Thai regulations.

Meanwhile, industry pundits believe the move would make PayPal potentially lose customers and allow other competitors to step in amid strong competition in the segment.

"We have already opened account registration for registered businesses and continue the process of transferring existing registered business customers to PayPal Thailand," a PayPal spokesperson told the Bangkok Post.

"Regrettably, we need more time to prepare our services for consumers, sole proprietors, and freelancers or casual sellers, in order to comply with all applicable Thai laws."

From March 7, consumers in Thailand with an existing PayPal account will no longer be able to use their PayPal wallet to shop online until further notice, according to PayPal's website. They will be able to withdraw any balance in their PayPal wallet to their bank account.

Consumers will still be able to make payments using a debit or credit card to merchants that offer the Guest Checkout function, it said.

The firm also indicated from March 7, existing PayPal accounts registered to freelancers or casual sellers as well as sole proprietors in Thailand will have limited functionality, except to make bank withdrawals.

New account registration for consumers, freelancers and sole proprietors will not be available until further notice.

However, the firm is still open for registration for Thai businesses to receive PayPal services.

Those who already have business accounts are required to accept the new PayPal Thailand Relaunch Agreements and verify their identity by Feb 18, or else their PayPal business account capabilities will be limited from March 7, including being unable to send, spend or receive payment via PayPal.

"For many months, we have been working diligently on the relaunch of PayPal in Thailand. As a locally licensed payments provider, we have been gradually updating our products and processes to ensure we comply with all applicable Thai laws," PayPal's media statement read.

"We have already opened account registration for registered businesses, and we had hoped to start welcoming more customers in the next phase of our relaunch this March. Regrettably, we need more time to prepare our services in Thailand to reach this next phase and to build the best possible platform for our customers in Thailand. This means PayPal Thailand services will only be available to registered businesses for the time being."

Piyachart Ratanaprasartporn, chief executive of 2C2P Thailand, a Southeast Asia payment service provider, said PayPal is not very popular in Thailand -- unlike in the US and Europe -- as there are high fees involved.

E-wallet providers in Thailand drive the segment's competition with more discounts to attract users, he said.

PayPal's move is likely to cause the platform to lose customers, he added.

Monsinee Nakapanant, co-president of Ascend Money Co, the operator of TrueMoney Wallet, pointed out PayPal's move would affect both consumers, online sellers and freelancers, especially ones with cross-border transactions to and from Western markets.

For Thai consumers, there are other options they can choose from, such as TrueMoney Wecard, which allow them to pay international merchants without credit or debit cards required, she noted.

For Thai merchants and freelancers receiving international payments, PayPal's move would "open the opportunity for mobile operators to fulfill the needs of affordable international remittance as other currently-available service options are still subject to high fees", she said.

Pawoot Pongvitayapanu, an e-commerce pundit, pointed out that the move would have an impact on freelancers and online workers who receive their work payment through PayPal.

In Thailand, however, there are still services by other operators that can be used instead of PayPal.

PayPal may find it difficult to deal with identity verification of customers as well as other legal requirements so it decided to make such a move, said Mr Pawoot.

Michael Araneta, head of advisory and research at IDC Financial Insights, told the Bangkok Post the Thailand payments market is rapidly evolving and the time spent by PayPal to rework its strategy for the Thai market might make it lose out more in the market.

“From 2019 to 2025, we expect Thailand’s mobile wallets to grow 5% in terms of market share of total payment options used by consumers while cards and domestic real-time payments will grow only by 3% in market share each, taking away share from cash-based options,” Mr Araneta said.

Local mobile wallet brands, quite closely tied to widely used digital services ecosystems (Line, AIS, True, Grab) will probably continue to gain share.

There is also a growing possibility that these players will gain cross-border and international use – which is the strength of PayPal from the beginning, but also in more use cases in the day-to-day life of Thai consumers, he said. 

Thailand will continue to see a shift to real-time payments (domestic real-time payments through PromptPay), facilitated by QR codes and direct transfers. Real-time payments are performing much better than expected – which shows that things do change a lot in the world of payments, he said.

“Who knows, when PayPal succeeds in their rework for the Thai market, things will change as well?,” said Mr Araneta.

Suthikorn Kingkaew, a project leader at Thammasat University Research and Consultancy Institute, pointed out PayPal would like to comply with Thai regulations, particularly e-taxation.

PayPal’s move to suspend most services for non-registered businesses would make them lose some of customers, he said. 

However, by fully complying with the local regulations, PayPal may be able to provide new services and draw new customers, particularly in banking and online lending areas, he added.

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