Carrier Billing Compliance 101 in Southeast Asia

Are you launching a service in the Southeast Asia Market? If so, we have the details you should know all about the billing compliance.

Southeast Asia consists of over 600 million inhabitants among 11 countries. It is an emerging market with a growing smartphone penetration yet a low credit card penetration. This fact makes it an attractive region for mobile commerce and those willing to use mobile billing.

With over 20 mobile operators established in a region of diversified religions, cultures, and languages, it is important to look at what makes a mobile service compliant to the Southeast Asian standards. In this article, we will be looking at the general picture of what is going on in the region in order to get a basic understanding on the matter.

Before we start, it is important to consider that compliance is continuously being updated, as regulators and operators are responding to new trends, market demands and issues that these rules are being changed. In the SEA, a region that has experienced a few waves of fraudulent activities in the mobile commerce, we can see regulators and operators are taking actions to strengthen their policies, assuring guarantees for a safe user experience as well as keeping complaints to a low radar.

The following will summarize the compliance rules in Southeast Asian countries as of Quarter 1 2018 based on the different information we received from dealing with operators across the region. In order to make this easier to understand, the countries will be segmented by tiers:

Tier 1 – Strong regulation: Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam & Indonesia

These are among the most regulated countries in the region. In Singapore, merchants need to obtain a license and pass a strong operator approval before being able to launch a service. In Malaysia, Vietnam & Indonesia, the operators are taking up control of the user flow in order to guarantee less complaint and secure their users.

In Tier 1 countries, we found that:

  • A two-click flow has been implemented. It means the user needs to send an active confirmation of purchase, either through a second authorization page or, with a PIN number received in their mobile phone.
  • Operators are opting for implementing an AOC (Authorization of Charge) Page directly in their servers, meaning that the operators gets full control and information from the purchasing person. Most of these AOC Pages are per standard and allow little customization for service providers.

Tier 2 – Mild regulation: Philippines, Myanmar & Thailand

While in these market, regulators and operators has started to catch up, they haven’t taken full control over the user experience flow and are a bit more flexible depending on case to case.

In Tier 2 countries, you may find that most operators have implemented a two-click flow requiring the user to confirm their purchase, but they still allow the authorization of purchase to be done by the service providers.  This method gives a space to the provider to be creative with their Marketing.

Tier 3 – Low regulation: Laos, Brunei, and Cambodia

These markets are mostly Premium SMS driven and are yet to define strong regulations in terms of Direct Carrier Billing.

In Tier 3 countries, we found that a One-Click Flow is of common use and the user does not need to confirm their purchase. Having only to make one action to get their service ready.

Besides the user-flow, specifications, and requirements specified above, there are other considerations to be made when launching a service or a campaign in Southeast Asia:

Southeast Asia is a conservative region

Due to religions and cultural practices, the region is mostly recognized as a conservative market. In that line, operators will not approve services that are offensive to the religions and cultures such as violent, explicit or any gambling content. If you do happen to stumble upon a provocative mobile content for example, it is most likely not under compliance and running on a different type of content. In Thailand, offensive information of the King is deemed to be punished.

More focus on user experience

Like many other countries in the west, mobile operators are now paying more attention to services that comply with excellent user experience. They are not only looking at how much revenue their services are doing but how will these services keep their users engaged using mobile data (3g/4g).

With that in view, service providers have to prove their performance in terms of engagement, user retention, and stickiness in order to strive. Finally, I hope this summary of the region helps you get a general overview of the market. Do expect the regulations to change and to become stronger in the near future.

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Marisa Cardenas

The author Marisa Cardenas

A Senior Marketing & Business Development Executive at Forest Interactive. Marissa works with Mobile Operators to enable mobile digital services across Asia. She is passionate about technology, traveling and currently on a mission to be a lifetime vegetarian.

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