In hot Australian political news today, it has been revealed that Prime Minister Scott Morrison has lost access to his WeChat account and has hit out at the Chinese Government.

Unfortunately for the Prime Minister, he has fallen into a trap that many other businesses have landed in. It’s a pickle we’ve helped quite a few of our users get out of.

Go on, tell us what happened

The root of the problem is that when Morrison registered his Official WeChat account, ScottMorrison2019, he didn’t exactly use official channels.

For a long time, overseas businesses were not allowed WeChat accounts, but boy did they want them. As a result, a cottage industry popped up where Chinese businesses would register an account, and ‘sell’ it to an Overseas business. In ScoMo’s case, his account is owned by a company called ‘Fuzhou 985 Information Technology Co., Ltd.’ Account ownership details are publicly visible on the account, which is why we can trace exactly where Morrison went wrong. It’s not clear who Morrison originally purchased the account from, but we can see from the details on the account that it was verified as owned by Fuzhou 985 Information Technology Co., Ltd. on the 12 of November 2011.  Media reports suggest the original owner may sold it to this company, who supposedly didn’t realise the link to the Australian Prime Minister.

However, given the audience for the account was most likely Chinese Australians or those who would like to be, you can see why the new owner took the opportunity to rebrand it as ‘Aus-Chinese New Living’ and potentially use it to promote businesses related to moving to or living in Australia. Interestingly. it seems all of Morrison’s past posts are still there.

Can he get it back?

Unfortunately for Scomo, the way WeChat operates is that the business that registers an account is the ultimate owner, no matter what.

We’ve heard for years of situations where a company registers an account this way, builds up followers, then the company who registered it takes back ownership of the account.

Did Scott Morrison break the rules?

 

In short, yes. And that’s why he hasn’t been able to get his account back. Despite his political profile, contacting tech support at WeChat is very hard, and we’ve never seen WeChat step in to resolve a situation like this. It’s also why WeChat asks for a lot of documentation, including your official ASIC certificate, when registering an account. The only way to ‘claim’ that account if you are the business that originally registered it.

Where the plot thickens in this case, is that WeChat actually does have a process and a channel to register Official Accounts from Overseas, where you can verify an Australian company as the ultimate owner.

And while it is relatively new, we’ve been helping clients register legitimate accounts, in their own name, since well before Morrison registered his in 2019…

On top of that, it probably would have been cheaper for Morrison to do this than buy an account he didn’t own, given WeChat only charges $99 US per year to verify your account as your own! 

Is this going to happen to me?

That depends. If you, too, have purchased a dodgy account from another business, then yes it is a real risk for you. We have had many clients come to us in this situation. Or what’s also common is someone in the business has a friend who’s cousin who is Chinese and helped set up an account, but that person has since moved on and our client’s have had no way to get into their account.

If, however, you register a legitimate account in your business name that account will always be connected to your business. No matter whether the staff member who set it up leaves or someone maliciously accesses it and locks you out, there’s a process to rectify that through WeChat.

At WeTools, we always set up accounts on our client’s behalf for this exact reason. Even though it would be easier to launch client accounts and take on new business without going through the sometimes lengthy Verification process (which involves sending in phone bills, business certificates and a copy of your driver’s licence or passport), we always set them up the official way to a) work within WeChat’s official terms of service and b) provide the best possible service and long term outcomes for our clients.

So, was it the Chinese Government?

We can’t speak to the motivations of the company who took over Morrison’s accounts and what may have happened behind the scenes but what we can say is that Morrison didn’t get the best advice on how to set up a WeChat account, and that this is a very common scenario for Western businesses who have skirted the rules to set up an account the “easy” way.

Just like a popular Influencer wouldn’t risk having someone else have ultimate control of their Instagram, we definitely advise against taking short cuts and not having full control of your WeChat account.

If you’re in this situation, or looking for advice on how to safely set up a WeChat account, don’t hesitate to reach out – we set up WeChat accounts for non-Chinese overseas businesses legitimately all the time and are happy to help. You can contact us here, or check out our services, pricing and FAQs here.

If you’d like to know more about what setting up an account involves you can also read our guide to setting up accounts and all of your options as an international business.