Tencent CEO: WeChat will remain free

Liu Chiping says the mobile communications service will remain free as its large user base offers room for collaboration with Chinese telcos and there is no need for an additional charge.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor
Tencent CEO attempts to calm the storm following a Chinese official's claim saying the government is planning to impose service fees on WeChat users.

Tencent CEO Liu Chiping says the company's mobile chat service WeChat will remain free, in response to Chinese users' complaints over the possibility of being charged for using it.

Xinhua's report Sunday, citing Liu, said the Internet giant does not believe there will be a need to charge users for the service. The CEO also said the app's large user base will offer room for cooperation with telecom operators.

Liu's remarks came after China's Minister of Industry and Information Technology, Miao Wei, said last week the ministry was looking into the possibility of having users pay for WeChat and had asked operators to submit a service plan.

Last Friday, 90 percent of China's netizens polled by Xinhua Net said they would stop using WeChat if the mobile messaging app was no longer free and having to pay the telcos for use of the service would mean they will be charged twice since they are already paying for mobile data plans.

WeChat, also known as Weixin, currently has more than 300 million users worldwide since Tencent launched the service two years ago.

Industry watchers also told ZDNet Asia mobile messaging services such as WhatsApp or WeChat need to price their services right or it may force consumers to turn to other platforms. They also urged providers to consider other means of monetization to prevent an exodus of users flocking to free alternatives.

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