RANGOON — A reportedly defective “lucky draw” introduced by Qatar-based mobile network provider Ooredoo has been met with fury from users on social media, leading to a suspension order from the Ministry of Transport and Communication.
The ministry is now investigating whether the lucky draw constitutes illegal “gambling,” assistant permanent secretary to the ministry Chit Wai told The Irrawaddy.
Ooredoo’s text message-based lucky draw, called “Khu Phyay, Khu Htaw,” was to last from July 18 to Oct. 15. Ooredoo subscribers could answer a series of quiz questions, with text message responses costing 200 kyats (US$0.17) each.
Participants could win 3 million kyats ($2,526) on a given day, and accumulate 30 million ($25,255) over the full period, with the additional opportunity of winning phone handsets on weekends.
The quiz included questions related to Burma’s geography, current affairs and general knowledge, with participants selecting one of two answers.
However, since Friday, a high number of users have been venting on Facebook that “correct” responses drew text messages reading “incorrect, try again,” and claimed to have been “cheated.”
Catching wind of this fury, the Ministry of Transport and Communication’s Department of Telecommunications sent a letter to Ooredoo on July 23 ordering them to stop the draw, and chastising them for not submitting the scheme to the ministry prior to launch.
“We’re now checking telecommunications law to determine whether this kind of [lucky draw] package is legal. We can’t yet say whether it represents a form of gambling,” assistant permanent secretary Chit Wai said.
Chit Wai noted that, “Ooredoo is not forcing their subscribers to spend money on text messages for the lucky draw.” He said they were still awaiting a response from Ooredoo.
Meanwhile, complaints on Facebook have continued to rumble.
“I’ve spent at least 5,000 kyats [US$4.20] answering their questions,” raged Ma Mon Mon, a resident of Rangoon’s Yankin Township.
She went on, “If my answer is correct, I get ten points, and so on till I get closer to the prize draw—but I got back replies saying most of my answers were wrong, which is not true, and so I tried again and again got so frustrated.”
“It’s like baiting,” she said.
On Monday, Ooredoo apologized to its subscribers and said it would reimburse lucky draw participants within 48 hours. The draw will remain on hold while discussions are held with the ministry, and participant’s scores will remain as they were.
Ooredoo recently announced it had netted 7.5 million subscribers in Burma, one of the fasting growing telecoms markets in the world since the liberalization of the market in 2013. This puts it well behind Norway-based Telenor, the only other foreign operator so far in Burma, which has claimed 16.9 million subscribers.
However, Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications (MPT)—the State-owned enterprise that held the monopoly prior to 2013—still holds the largest share of subscribers.
A fourth telecoms operator—a shared venture between Vietnam’s Viettel, 11 local Burmese public companies and a subsidiary of military-run Myanmar Economic Corporation—was awarded a license earlier this year, but has yet to enter the market.