Alternatives to Direct Carrier Billing (DCB), including payment through debit and credit cards will continue to work
After the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) reportedly suspended $34 million in payments to foreign service providers like Google under the Direct Carrier Billing (DCB) service by telcos, mobile phone users would still be able to download apps from the Google Play Store but would not be able to pay for them using their mobile balance.
The SBP measure has led some local media sources to spread false information about Google’s potential suspension of all Play Store services on December 1, 2022. The apps would be available for download, but the only ways users could pay for them were with debit and credit cards.
The other option for making such payments is Direct Carrier Billing (DCB), which entails using the mobile balance to make the payment. Due to a shortage of worldwide digital payment options for using different apps, DCB was created.
According to Aslam Hayat, senior information and communication technology regulatory expert and former Chief Corporate Affairs and Strategy Officer at Telenor,
“freelancers are also able to pay for some tools and apps for doing their assignments by linking direct carrier billing with Google Play store.”
Since these apps are not physically present in Pakistan, additional payment methods like gift cards or cash are not supported. Users have the option of paying with DCB, Mastercard, or Visa credit/debit cards. Since not all mobile phone users possess credit or debit cards, DCB is an advantageous service for these users.
Under direct carrier billing, the mobile client tops off their balance with a specific telco to pay for the app, and the telco sends the total after a predetermined number of days, as agreed upon, either directly to the applications or through intermediaries.
The SBP has apparently stopped allowing telcos to transmit this aggregated payment to foreign service providers like Google.
“Any step regarding the barring of payments under DCB is likely to harm not just the telcos’ data use in case of gaming and entertainment apps but will also have a detrimental impact on the freelancers,” claims Aslam.
A representative from one of the top telcos claims that the telecommunication sector pays around $60 million a year for DCB and other digital services.
However, according to official sources, the telcos’ authorization for direct carrier billing was never suspended and they were just ordered to reclassify such payments. According to a person who spoke to Profit,
“Payments for larger IT services, such as for cloud services, are handled under strict foreign currency rules and are done through a specified bank.”
The foreign exchange guidebook listed the things that could be bought with money. The insider claimed that carriers have begun paying for apps under both the DCB and payments for more general IT service categories. At that point, the SBP sent a letter to banks requesting that they stop paying for apps classified as DCB and reassign them to the proper category.
“Different regulations apply to payments for larger IT services. Gaming and entertainment applications have distinct payment policies. The insider claimed that the contributions were never stopped but rather asked to be rededicated.”
It is important to remember, meanwhile, that the SBP has employed regulatory quirks to obstruct the flow of funds out of the nation. Although LCs for the import of raw materials for the manufacturing of mobile phones were not barred when a ban on luxury goods was implemented, the SBP had begun delaying authorization for opening of LCs.