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Messaging app Line lambasted for raising monthly fees for Thai SMEs

Line’s business accounts tailored for SMEs are merging with the ones intended for big corporations.

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Line, a popular messaging app for individuals and businesses in Thailand, has received strong public opposition after announcing that it will transfer all existing users of  its Line@ service to Official Accounts (OAs), the Bangkok Post reported.

Line@ was a service specifically targeted at small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Thailand, whereas OAs were for large corporations.

Under Line@ packages, users could send an unlimited number of messages although there was a cap on the number of targets.

In contrast, OA packages only allow users to send a fixed number of free messages per month—with additional messages incurring an extra cost. OA packages also feature tools for data generation and analysis for example.

The company first revealed the plan to transfer users in April. It said the process would begin in August and end in September, so from September onwards, Line will cease to offer the Line@ service on its platform in Thailand.

Line@ users criticized this move as this means a higher cost burden for them.

As a result, some SMEs stated their intention to abandon Line and move to other platforms for their business promotions, according to the Bangkok Post. In response to the backlash, Line decided to water down its OA packages, allowing users to send more free messages, presumably in an attempt to keep SMEs on its platform, Michael Yeo, senior research manager of IDC Financial Insights told the newspaper.

Line responded to the criticisms by saying that it was the company’s global policy to merge Line@ into Line OA to become a single platform. The reason behind the move Line said, was that the unlimited message feature of Line@ tended to be abused, resulting in normal users receiving an overwhelming number of messages daily.

Line is estimated to have 187 million active users worldwide, and Thailand is the messaging apps second most important market after Japan.