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Mobitel money-transfer mess

MOBILE-phone provider Mobitel has launched a money-transfer service, but officials say it has yet to apply for central bank oversight.

The Cellcard Cash service is described on Mobitel’s website as a way of storing cash, allowing users to make money transfers across Cambodia, top-up prepaid accounts, and pay certain bills through mobile phones.

In July, the National Bank of Cambodia confirmed that Mobitel would be required to submit to oversight of the scheme, as money transfers are considered banking and fall under NBC regulation.

Yesterday, NBC director general Tal Nay Im said Mobitel had "still not applied” for such oversight, though to her knowledge the service had not yet been put in place.

But when reporters visited Mobitel’s showroom on Phnom Penh’s Sihanouk Boulevard, a saleswoman confirmed that the service had been launched on Monday and was available for use.

The service was also begun after NBC released a prakas, or edict, on third-party processors on August 27.

It stated that “a person which is not a bank may not engage in the business of payment transactions or hold itself out as providing payment transactions”, unless it is entrusted through an agreement with a bank and is licensed by the NBC.

The prakas said that a licensed third-party processor would then be permitted to operate a number of services, including as “a service provider of money remittance by mobile phone or other means”.

Mobitel Chief Executive Officer David Spriggs declined to comment on the money-transfer service yesterday. Royal Group chairman Kith Meng also declined to comment, stating that he was in a meeting.

The firm’s operations manager, Kay Lot, has said that the firm did not consider the plan banking.

Other companies with mobile-banking or transfer schemes, however, are operating under NBC control.

ACLEDA Bank launched its Unity mobile-phone banking system earlier this year.

Its Executive Vice President So Phonnary said that National Bank of Cambodia was charged with oversight of the banking industry, and that “mobile banking is another part of our core banking system”.

An official at mobile transfer market leader WING said Tuesday that the company “100 percent” supported the August prakas, and that it would be a driver of standards across Southeast Asia.

“The NBC has been very thorough in creating this legislation to ensure that Cambodians are delivered high quality, secure and safe mobile banking,” WING Managing Director David Kleiman said.

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