Tencent denies WeChat payment rumors as users kvetch

By Wang Xinyuan Source:Global Times Published: 2013-4-7 0:58:01

Tencent Holdings, China's largest Internet company, dismissed over the weekend a rumor that it will start to charge its 300 million users for using WeChat, a popular free instant messaging application that has slashed into the business of China's telecom operators.

"Since early this year, we have encountered various rumors," Tencent's WeChat team said in a statement on its official tweeter-like Weibo account on Friday.

Tencent listed three major rumors, with the latest one saying that it would charge WeChat users 0.05 yuan (under 1 US cent) for each instant message and 0.1 yuan (1.5 US cents) for each voice message sent via its platform, starting on the coming July 1.

At the request of telecom operators, there is a possibility of having WeChat users pay for the application, but the charge will be kept low, Minister of Industry and Information Technology Miao Wei was quoted as saying by Caixin at a recent forum.

WeChat has attracted 300 million users since its launch two years ago and has become a huge challenge for the text and call services offered by the country's traditional telecom operators.

Currently WeChat is free for users as long as they have access to the Internet and the application through their mobile phones.

The payment rumor triggered strong opposition among many WeChat users who said such plans were intended to protect the interests of traditional telecom operators at the cost of users.

"I will no longer use WeChat if it charges fees," Xia Yu, a 27-year-old WeChat user, told the Global Times on Saturday.

The clarification by Tencent indicates that it will not charge fees to WeChat users in fear of losing users, but the company itself may have to bear higher costs for using the servers of the telecom operators for WeChat, Wei Wuhui, an associate professor at the School of Media and Design with Shanghai Jiao Tong University, told the Global Times on Saturday.

However, Tencent's statement does not exclude the possibility of charging for value added products such as WeChat games in the future, Wei said.

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