Need to lower SMS banking services fees: VBA

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Dr. Nguyễn Quốc Hùng, Secretary General of the Vietnam Bankers Association

Fees for SMS banking services are currently three times higher than standard text charges. Banks are encouraging customers to shift to using digital banking services to help reduce cost while keeping bank fees low for customers. Dr. Nguyễn Quốc Hùng, Secretary General of the Vietnam Bankers Association, speaks to the media about this issue.

Recently, banks have been encouraging customers to shift to digital channels to reduce fees. Particularly, some banks have waived all e-banking transaction fees on their digital platforms. What is your view on this as mobile service providers have yet to cut their messaging charges for banking services?

Payment activities of credit institutions have undergone drastic innovations. New payment methods based on high-tech platforms such as apps, payment intermediary (NAPAS) and e-wallets have satisfied customers’ demand for convenience, transparency and safety.

Recently, banks have encouraged clients to use digital services instead of SMS banking services. Some banks even have waived money transfer fees and monthly maintenance fees on their digital channels. This move is necessary to help banks reduce costs while at the same time minimising charges for customers.

In the past, banks used to send messages to customers via SMS to notify them of balance changes. However, credit institutions have lately reviewed and found that the cost to maintain this service is too high. Based on their recommendations, the Vietnam Bankers Association has proposed to the Ministry of Information and Communications and credit institutions have also proposed to telecommunications operators to adjust SMS charges for banking services.

As far as we know, the fee for SMS banking services is three times higher than the standard texting fee. If charging customers equally high for texting services, it will ruin banks’ reputation, but if banks waive this for customers, they cannot bear this burden. In particular, while supporting customers to reduce lending interest rates, credit institutions have reviewed and reconsidered to limit the use of messaging services, switching balance notifications to banking apps. This is also a solution to reduce costs for customers.

Balance notification via the banking app or through other forms of e-payment still ensures safety, transparency, and does not affect other activities. The effect of using SMS banking services cannot be denied, but it is necessary to ensure that the fee is at a commensurate level. In the context that credit institutions have waived many fees for customers, the cost of SMS banking services charged by mobile network operators should also be reconsidered. The stakeholders should work together to come up with a reasonable fee, ensuring the rights and interests of the carriers, credit institutions and customers.

Message scams under the names of bank brands (SMS brand name) sent to customers to appropriate money are rising rapidly, affecting banks’ reputations. While banks have to pay a high service fee to the network operator, in your opinion, what is the network operators’ responsibility for this?

In fact, these fake messages do not come from the banks’ systems but are distributed through fake mobile broadcasting devices. Therefore, network operators need to strengthen security, preventing and coordinating with banks to “patch vulnerabilities” in messaging services to ensure security and safety of the financial and monetary system.

Currently, banks are having to pay very high fees for carriers providing SMS brand name services, they must be titled to enjoy adequate service quality and the network operator must be responsible for coordinating with banks to handle the problem of fake messages.

I think the carriers need to improve the security of their services, stopping customers from receiving fake messages with the banks’ branding. While waiting for solutions, in the short term in contracts signed with banks, network operators need to reserve a large enough amount of free text messages for banks to use to warn customers of new scams or alert them to established methods.

What has the Vietnam Bankers Association done to protect the rights and interests of its members, as well as help customers reduce costs and avoid risks?

Up to now, the Vietnam Bankers Association has performed its roles and responsibilities in protecting the legitimate rights and interests of its member organisations. For the recommendations of members about the high cost of SMS banking services, we have sent documents to the Ministry of Information and Communications proposing to review the fee for text messaging services, so that credit institutions can support customers.

We believe that SMS banking services are necessary, but we need to discuss it again to offer a more reasonable fee. Therefore, credit institutions and network operators need to agree with each other on views, methods and setting appropriate service fees. Especially, when the phenomenon of SMS fraud has become common, many customers do not understand clearly and accidentally perform operations on messages, leading to loss of money in their deposit accounts. We have discussed a lot to find the safest solution for this problem.

However, on the side of customers, they need to contact the banks where they opened accounts to check if they feel unsafe with any messages related to their account to avoid risks. Credit institutions always have a 24/7 hotline to receive information and promptly handle such cases.

I would like telecommunications service providers to discuss, agree with the bank, review and promptly adjust SMS charges for banking services, so that credit institutions can consider supporting customers better. — VNS

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