NBTC targets huge Cookie Run phone debt


– Thailand news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

NBTC targets huge Cookie Run phone debt
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) is considering enforcing monthly debt limits for bills incurred by playing online games.

No matter how cute and innocent Cookie Run characters may look, it was said that players risk losing too much money if they don’t understand that special items in the game are sometimes sold for real money.

“It may be necessary to impose credit limits for the purchase of applications, games, items and stickers – perhaps at Bt1,000 per billing cycle,” NBTC member Prawit Leesathapornwongsa said yesterday.

He was speaking after he summoned the representatives of five mobile-phone service operators to a meeting in the wake of reports that a 12-year-old boy incurred a phone bill of more than Bt200,000 in less than a month via the Cookie Run.

The bill was from Advanced Wireless Network, a subsidiary of Advanced Info Service (AIS), he said.

AWN is the first operator in Thailand to allow mobile-phone users to pay for Google Play Store services via direct carrier billing (DCB). With this method, mobile-phone users do not need to associate their account with a credit-card number. They can pay for the services via their phone-service payment, which could be either pre-paid or post-paid from April 30 to May 30.

AIS executive Pratana Leelapanang said the company had decided to launch DCB services to provide convenience to users of Android phones.

“And when we noticed that some customers had incurred unusually high expenses last month, we didn’t stay idle. We immediately shut down the DCB service for all post-paid users,” he said.

Pratana said AIS had also offered to waive fees for customers who unintentionally bought services from the Google Play Store via DCB.

He said AIS would develop its alert system further to prevent customers from incurring unwanted expenses.

“We’re also thinking about a credit limit and educating the public more about online services.”

Prawit said the NBTC would invite Google Thailand to a discussion on Thursday to see how the firm, as a platform provider, could help prevent the aforementioned problems.

However, the DCB services provided by AWN are done via a contract between Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel), the major shareholder of AIS, and Google Singapore.

Cookie Run is an irresistible game among many Thais.

Two months ago, a Thai man fell from a four-storey building after becoming overly focused on playing the game. Fortunately, he was not seriously hurt.

In the latest case of youngsters unwittingly running up bills while playing games on mobile phones, AIS has agreed to waive some Bt600,000 racked up by an 18-year-old boy in Mae Sot, Tak province.

The boy did not realise he was spending real money when he bought items while playing the popular Cookie Run game.

Atchara Jaikrua, who spent many sleepless nights after receiving a phone bill worth Bt596,398 thanks to her son’s favourite pastime, said she was relieved to hear that the phone service operator had decided to waive the bill on grounds that she did not know it.

Atchara, who works at a drinks shop, paid her actual bill worth Bt614.46 and decided to cancel the number. She also called on other parents to beware about allowing their kids to use post-paid phones.

Similarly, a resident in Phetchaburi’s Ban Lad district was sent a bill of Bt163,405 after her eight-year-old son reportedly bought items to advance in the Cookie Run game through her phone. Somthawil Khiewsa-art said the phone service operator had told her to pay the first instalment of Bt48,000 soon, adding she did not know what to do. She went on to say that her son had played the game for months without any problems and then started buying items, not knowing that they cost money.

Another parent in Udon Thani’s Muang district claimed his child had also unwittingly racked up a bill of Bt70,495 on his phone. Telewiz Udon Thani executive Sawat Theerattananukulchai said he had discussed this case with AIS and the telecom operator had agreed to check if the bill stemmed from the user’s ignorance. And if so, AIS would cover the expense.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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