Zero Mobile reinstated by IMDA on 24th June 2020

Zero Mobile MVNO licensed reinstated by IMDA on 24th June 2020. It looks like they are exploring to relaunch their products.

Here is their press statement.

Zero Mobiles’ operating license in Singapore was reinstated by IMDA on June 24th.

Unfortunately, even though there were mitigating factors beyond our control that caused the delay in addressing these 12 customer complaints, the damage to our reputation caused
by this situation has been significant and disproportionate to the issues raised by IMDA.

Since the beginning of the year, as IMDA had been aware, we have been working to secure additional investment, restructure our organisation and relaunch our service in conjunction with a system upgrade with our partners in Singapore. This would allow us to move away from manual systems and process we were initially provided with, to a new real-time platform.

These changes were critical to our project and would have provide better prices, connectivity, and fewer operational issues; ultimately benefiting the consumer.

While we were amid negotiating and implementing these changes, the abrupt suspension of our license and the IMDAs accompanying unjustified rhetoric labelling Zero and our directors as ‘blacklisted’ had a devastating impact on us. Negotiations were put on hold and more critically, investment that would have benefited Singapore, fell through. We are still not sure what blacklisted meant in this context as no notice of any “blacklisting” has ever been received by us from IMDA.


IMDA’s abrupt and very public dressing down of Zero was overly harsh. To our knowledge, no other company, even with their chronic billing issues being reported by their customers publicly, has been treated this harshly in Singapore. It has jeopardised our project. Our potential to add more competition, investment, jobs, and value to the local economy has been severely impacted.


However, considering the reinstatement of our license, we are currently reviewing our options to decide if we continue our operations in Singapore. At the same time, we would implore IMDA to help build confidence in the telecommunications sector for both ourselves and future investors, by addressing several fundamental issues that have stifled the growth of many local MVNO ventures.


i. IMDA complaints process – Currently there is no differentiation between a legitimate consumer complaint and groundless, unactionable complaints. On several occasions we requested that IMDA implement an industry-wide platform to categorise, track, respond to and close-off complaints, as opposed to the current process of simply forwarding emails they receive regardless of content, and without context. There has been no action on this, and we still receive forwarded emails with no context or oversight on many occasions. An example of such a system in a similarly developed market would be the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) in Australia where complaints are only accepted when they relate to specific issues such as billing, service faults or contract disputes and basic account information and context is provided clearly. These complaints are then documented, tracked,
and closed with a clear process to follow. This is not the case in Singapore.


ii. Credit reporting environment – It is not unreasonable to expect a credit reporting system in a developed market to ensure credit providers, like mobile service operators, do not suffer undue losses. Over the last three years our company has seen payment default rates of up to 35%. This is an industry wide issue that could be managed effectively if
delinquency were tracked on a centralised database for all operators to check against. Often these customers also lodge “baseless complaints” with IMDA when their service is inevitably terminated due to non-payment. Such basic systems are a norm in similarly developed markets such as Australia and the United States but IMDA has shown no interest in addressing this issue in Singapore.


iii. Market cannibalisation – Finally and most importantly, although we believe firmly in higher competition, it is critical that that competition must be sustainable. We do not understand themotivation behind allowing the Singapore market to be flooded with service providers, without much oversight to ensure the sustainability of these projects. The recent influx of MVNOs in the sector has resulted in the erosion of investments earlier investors like Zero had made, thus removing any incentive to make further investments. Carriers can be seen to establish partnerships with MVNOs and charge them hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees, while providing them with lesser terms and technology. At the same time, theythen proceed to launch their own subsidiaries and sub-brands to directly compete with their partners, giving no confidence to investors that their investments can ever be profitable.
What we have experienced in Singapore in the last three years is unimaginable in any other similarly developed markets like Australia and the United States. In Singapore, IMDA is mandated to ensure smaller players get access to the same prices, terms and technology as these carriers, their subsidiaries and their sub-brands do, but we have found our experience to be lacking of any substantial support.


These issues are becoming more evident with the closure and departure of more and more MVNOs in recent months, who see little or no benefit in investing more in Singapore. The development of more conducive market conditions must be given a higher priority if Singapore is to provide an environment where investors can feel safe to invest their money, competitive services can be offered, and competition can thrive, rather than be stifled. With our suspension now lifted, we intend to review our options and reconnect with our partners to explore the possibility of relaunching our services in Singapore.


Finally, once again, we sincerely apologise to any customers that have had to wait longer than they should have to get their complaints resolved and we thank the thousands of customers that have supported us over the years.

We love Singapore and Singaporeans, and therefore we chose to invest in this market. It is our aim to be part of a more resilient, balanced and a sustainable telecommunications sector in Singapore.