Plan calls for mandatory re-registration of all SIM cards
The telecom regulator plans to force all mobile firms to re-register their entire customer bases, despite widespread concerns over its harm to consumer data privacy and the burden it will place on operators.
Mobile operators said re-registering their entire user bases would entail a significant financial and manpower burden, raising the possibility of legal consequences for those that fail to comply.
The new registration requires operators to either record the real owner of the SIM card, under what it calls a "registered by" formula, or record the holder (or user) of the SIM card under what it calls a "holder by" formula.
If the new regulatory draft is put into effect, all operators will be given 180 days to complete the re-registration of their existing customer data, while all new SIM buyers going to 50,000 retailers nationwide will have to register under the new concept.
A source at the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) who requested anonymity said a proper SIM registration system is needed to support digital activities, especially mobile banking, and to avert increasingly sophisticated fraud.
The move also serves national security purposes, the source said.
The NBTC office held its first focus group meeting for the new regulatory draft on Monday, joined by representatives from every mobile operator, the Bank of Thailand and other commercial banks, the Digital Economy and Society Ministry and the National Security Council Office.
But representatives from mobile operators excoriated the new regulatory draft at the meeting, saying it was impractical in several areas, especially punishment.
According to the draft, if incorrect registration information is discovered after the deadline, mobile operators will be held responsible, even in cases where registration is done via retailers.
"DTAC totally disagrees with the new draft because it may create confusion in several areas," said Narupon Rattanasamaharn, senior vice-president for regulatory affairs at Total Access Communication.
He said the new draft is aimed at forcing the operators to re-register their existing customers into two categories, but it's hard to force existing users to do so, especially corporate ones.
Many corporate customers have registered the SIM cards for all of their employees through one juristic person.
"How can operators force all of their corporate customers to re-register, as the corporations will have to call on their employees who use but do not own the SIM cards to do so?" Mr Narupon asked.
The draft's condition does not match the lifestyles of mobile users in other instances, for example, when parents have bought and registered SIM cards for their children, he said.
"It's also difficult to force all existing mobile users in households to re-register," Mr Narupon said. The draft creates unfair conditions for operators, especially the punishment in cases when retailers have made registration errors, he said.
The NBTC source said the office is allowing operators to submit feedback on the new draft until March 23.
The NBTC plans to hold another focus group in April that will centre on mobile operators.
The source said all representatives from the operators disagreed with the draft.
Some representatives threatened to file a complaint with the Central Administrative Court if the new regulatory draft is put into effect, arguing it would be unlawful.
The NBTC office is trying to finalise the draft and submit it to the existing NBTC board for approval by April.
The draft is mainly being pushed by NBTC deputy secretary-general Korkij Danchaivichit.
The existing NBTC board's six-year working term expired in October 2017.