Cashless society hits snag
Registration for the PromptPay service has been plagued by security concerns and lack of awareness among the public.
The case of a Kasikornbank customer who lost almost 1 million baht to cybercriminals and the hacking of Government Savings Bank (GSB) ATMs, have added to fears over the security of the online money transfer system.
The concerns are causing consumers to delay signing up for PromptPay, according to a number of people interviewed by the Bangkok Post.
"The incidents worry many people and make them reluctant to register for the service because they fear their information could be stolen," said Thanaprasert, a freelance worker who did not want to disclose his surname.
Mr Thanaprasert, 63, said many cybercriminals are very sophisticated and he doubts if banks have enough resources to fully shield customers from such risks.
Even though PromptPay registration requires only an ID card and a phone number, consumers worry the data can be used to obtain confidential information if it falls in the wrong hands.
"I don't trust banks to keep customers' personal information safe and secure since bank staff who are responsible for keeping it might get greedy and sell it to someone else," he said.
Given concerns over leaking personal information and a lack of understanding about PromptPay, Mr Thanaprasert has decided not to sign up for the service, at least for the moment.
"I've only heard of the benefits of the service but do not know anything about the security system prepared for it and how commercial banks or the government will take responsibility if my money is stolen," said Mr Thanaprasert.
He admitted that warnings circulated via Line, the country's most popular social network, that cyberthieves can access bank account information by having only an ID card or mobile phone number linked to a bank account, have undermined his confidence in PromptPay and discouraged him from registering.
PromptPay is a money transfer system via internet and mobile banking under the government's national e-payment initiative.
The service will be extended to electronic payment, personal income tax refunds, welfare and subsidy payments and e-tax, which will allow the Revenue Department to plug all e-payment transactions into its data system to boost efficiency.
To be eligible to use the service, interested persons must sign up for PromptPay by linking a current or savings account to their ID card or mobile phone number at commercial banks and the four state-controlled banks -- the Government Savings Bank, GH Bank, the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives and Islamic Bank of Thailand.
Pre-registration started on July 1, while the registration kicked off on July 15 with no deadline.
A single PromptPay account can be tied to a maximum of four numbers -- one ID card and three mobile phone numbers -- and these numbers must not be linked to any other account. The service allows users to transfer money to recipients by using only their ID card or phone number -- it is not necessary to know the recipient's bank account number.
Those who register for the service will be able to transfer money to recipients who hold accounts at different banks, or even the same banks in cross-clearing zones, free of charge for all transfers below 5,000 baht; transfers of 5,000 to 30,000 baht are charged a fee of no more than 2 baht; transfers of more than 30,000 to 100,000 baht cost no more than 5 baht; and transfers exceeding 100,000 baht are charged no more than 10 baht.
The government plans to kick-start PromptPay in late October.
Despite a number of campaigns and advertisements, the number of people registered remains low as seen by the fact that only about 14 million out of 40 million accounts across the country have registered for the service.
Mr Thanaprasert urged the government to inform the public how to use the electronic money transfer safely to encourage more people to use PromptPay.
Soonthorn Pakdijaras said he has not registered for the service yet as he does not have enough information to weigh if it really benefits him.
"Right now I don't need to use the service, so I haven't seriously looked for information," he said.
The 56-year-old businessman said he normally pays utility bills through mobile and internet banking and goes to bank branches to transfer large amounts of money for security purpose.
Security is another reason that bars him from signing up for PromptPay, he said, adding that he would use the new service in the future if it proved to run smoothly without serious problems.
Apart from fears over cyberattacks, the lack of awareness about PromptPay has also limited the number of those signing up for the service. Suchit Somprasert, a taxi driver, is a case in point.
Mr Suchit, 45, said he had never heard of PromptPay.
"I've never done any transactions via the internet or mobile banking before," he said.
He said he has never received any welfare nor subsidies from the government, but he will sign up for the service if he is entitled to such assistance.
Sudarat Phonyiam, a 48-year-old noodle vendor, said she heard of PromptPay from TV commercials but does not understand what it is nor how to use it.
She said she normally makes basic banking transactions, such as deposits and withdrawals.
"I'm more comfortable interacting with people when making money transactions. I don't really have any idea about it, so it is better for me not to use it," she said.
However, PromptPay has caught the interest of young people, especially students.
Nichamon Damrongkitkarn, a 22-year-old university student, said she registered for PromptPay because she thinks the service will make her life more convenient.
"At first I thought the system was secure, but there have been reports about people getting hacked. So now I'm a little worried," she said. "But I don't think I will be the unlucky one since a lot of people will be using the service, so the chances of me being hacked are minuscule."
Meanwhile, Predee Daochai, chairman of the Thai Bankers' Association (TBA), said the association plans to launch soon a public relation campaign to educate and inform the public about PromptPay. The campaign will help people to understand better the new payment channel and make them more confident about registering for the service.
Even though the number of those who registered for PromptPay is low compared with the total 40 million accounts, he said he is not worried as it will take a while for people to familiarise themselves with the new service and realise its benefits.
"We understand the public's concerns and that they will need more time to become familiar with the new service, just like ATMs and mobile banking when they were launched years ago," Mr Predee said.
Some consumers are waiting for PromptPay to start to make sure security is in place, he said.
The TBA expects heavy traffic on for the first day of service, so all members are well prepared and have tested the system, he added.