Large Vietnamese mobile service providers have integrated their content applications with sim cards without revealing their activities to customers, according to the Inspectorate of the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC).

At a meeting in Hanoi on December 25, inspectors said companies with large market shares, including Viettel, MobiFone and VinaPhone, have added contents onto SIMcards without asking permission from users.

The inspection results revealed that the three telecom providers have installed their applications (Viettel with Viettel Plus, MobiFone with SuperSim and LiveInfo, VinaPhone with IOD) onto their SIMcards to allow users to download information and determine their remaining credit.

They did not, however, provide clear information about service fees, and did not allow users to verify whether they agreed to use the services based upon the companies' price lists.

Between June 2012 and June 2013, VinaPhone had earned 20.67 billion VND (984.2 million USD) from its services, and MobiFone, which cooperated with 17 content service providers, had taken in 150.57 billion VND (7.17 million USD). The total revenues reported by Viettel were not provided at the meeting.

VinaPhone also collaborated with VASC Software and Media Company, under the Viet Nam Posts and Telecommunications Group, or VNPT, to offer a website for users to listen to music, read and download information.

They collected fees, but did not set a price for the services. The revenues from the website from July 2012 to May 2013 were 8.94 billion VND (426,000 USD).

For charging users for failed text messages, MobiFone had to return 816.75 million VND (nearly 38,900 USD), while VinaPhone were required to refund 692.7 million VND (32,990 USD) to subscribers.

However, MobiFone and VinaPhone could not return 227.62 million VND (10,840 USD) and 76.87 million VND (3,660 USD), respectively, because of subscribers who had stopped using the network.

Although the report from the inspectorate agency had not listed the specific amount Viettel is required to return to its customers, it did say that the firm continues sending advertisements to users through text messaging to customers who had previously refused to accept ad messages.

Do Huu Tri, deputy chief inspector of the ministry, said that at this time, officials have not required the companies to stop offering services integrated into SIMcards.

However, he said that the companies have a responsibility to resolve this issue and report their results to the ministry. If they do not comply, they will not be allowed to provide services, as stipulated by regulations in Decree N°77 of the Government, which came into effect on January 1, 2013.

The Inspectorate of the MIC also discovered faults in billing customers for prepaid SIMcards, fining selling locations nearly 2 billion VND (95,200 USD) in 2013.

The faults were discovered after the MIC's Department of Information and Communications carried out inspections at 29,377 locations selling SIMcards, out of 48,420 locations across the country, from May 15 to August 30. Inspectors also confiscated 34,667 prepaid SIMcards.

Besides the large-scale investigation which was conducted through December 15, inspectors also fined companies 3.49 billion VND (170,000 USD) for administrative violations in telecommunications and information, media, publishing, online information and posted fields.-VNA