3 school message firms fined RMB100,000 each
2013-December-4 Source: Szdaily web edition
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Three companies that offer school text message services have been fined 100,000 yuan (US$16,305) each by the city’s market supervision authorities for unfair competition, the Daily Sunshine reported yesterday.

School text message services allow teachers and school administrators to easily communicate with parents about students’ performance, academic results, homework and school activities. The three companies — Shenzhen Yuhe Technology Co., Shenzhen Interactive Education Internet Technology Co. and Shenzhen Baixiehai Information Internet Co. — have been the main providers of message services for nearly 500 schools in the city for the past 10 years.

The service usually costs 10 yuan (US$1.63) to 15 yuan per month, per student. Three million parents using such a service in Shenzhen are collectively paying about 200 million yuan every year.

The cost has drawn widespread criticism from parents. Some parents expressed concerns that schools were unjustly profiting from text services and said schools should instead use free communication tools, such as QQ and WeChat, the instant message platforms provided by Tencent.

Market authorities said Yuhe Co., which provides message services for 119 schools, had sponsored gifts totaling 98,207 yuan for cooperating schools since Jan. 5.

Interactive Education Co. services 236 schools and returned part of its profits — totaling 86,429 yuan — to cooperating schools earlier this year, authorities said. Baixiehai Co. services 140 schools and gave gifts totaling 75,600 yuan to school officials, market authorities said.

Shenzhen parents won’t need to pay for school text message services starting in January, as schools will temporarily bear the expenses until a free citywide service is implemented, market authorities said.

The Shenzhen Municipal Education Bureau is designing a system called “Shenzhen Education Cloud” that will provide free message services for schools and parents, bureau officials said.

Before that system is put into use, schools will use their public funds to pay for text message services, education authorities said.

Parents will need to pay themselves if they want a different, more personalized text service. Schools can’t require parents to use message services, reports said.

(Cui Xiaoli)

Editor: 张斯
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