Ministry to pilot utility bill data sandbox

Ministry to pilot utility bill data sandbox

The Finance Ministry will test in a sandbox the use of utility bill data by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to support their applications for new loans from state-owned financial institutions, said Chuenchob Kongudom, vice-minister to the Prime Minister.

The test will be piloted in April, he added.

He said some SMEs have been unable to access new loans from commercial and state financial institutions as they remain on a National Credit Bureau (NCB) blacklist.

As part of the test, the Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA), which has 19 million power users, will be the first state utility agency to link its information with the bureau.

Borrowers will have to subscribe to Krungthai Bank's Pao Tang e-wallet application and verify themselves on the app and then provide an e-consent to the app to send their utility bill data to the NCB.

The bureau will then forward such data to the banks at which the borrowers want to apply for a loan.

The other state utility agencies can connect with the bureau later when they are ready, Mr Chuenchob added.

The cabinet granted approval in 2014 so that the NCB could use the utility bills to carry out credit scoring of those seeking to borrow.

However, the bureau at that time had not been able to do so due to technical limitations and there was no personal data protection law to support the move then. Now the sharing of such utility bill data has been made easier thanks to digital technology.

NCB chief executive Surapol Opasatien said the World Bank advised many countries to use utility data to support the main information the SMEs use during a loan application, which would enable small companies or small borrowers to gain access to loans more easily, especially during the pandemic, which severely affected people's income.

He added that the use of this utility bill data was suitable for borrowers with financial records at the NCB and their financial record length of between six months to one year.

It is also suitable for those who earlier failed to repay debt and have corrected the situation but their default records have yet to be removed from the NCB. For example, those who had failed to repay debt in 2021 but resumed repayment as usual in 2023.

There are 5 million borrowers who are listed as non-performing loans by the NCB.

Fiscal Policy Office director-general Pornchai Thiraveja said the government has placed importance on solving household debt through three strategies: tackling borrowers' existing debt; granting new loans to help borrowers generate new income; and by promoting financial literacy.

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