Politics and policy

Telcos’ face fines for mobile phone crimes

Share Bookmark Print Rating
Unregistered lines represent about a fifth of the 30 million lines in use in Kenya. Photo/FILE

Unregistered lines represent about a fifth of the 30 million lines in use in Kenya. Photo/FILE  

By Okuttah Mark

Posted  Monday, December 31  2012 at  22:24

In Summary

  • CCK is enforcing the registration under the Miscellaneous Amendment Act No 12 of 2012 on the Kenya Information and Communication Act which compels mobile operators to keep a register of the people they provide services to.
  • CCK indicated Monday that by last Friday, 80.4 per cent of the 30 million SIM cards had been registered. Safaricom, the largest operator, had 2.9 million subscribers unregistered out of its 19.6 million subscribers. Airtel had not registered 822,526 out of 4.7 million subscribers.
SHARE THIS STORY

Mobile telephone operators face more penalties in the New Year arising from the use of more than six million unregistered lines, some of which have been used for criminal activities.

The penalties are contained in new regulations set to be gazetted any time from Tuesday.

Information and Communications permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo said the rules could be published as early as Friday, prescribing the liabilities that would befall the four operators — Safaricom, Airtel, Orange and yU Mobile — if fraud, extortion, kidnappings and hate speech are traced back to their customers’ unregistered lines.

“Mobile operators will bear the intermediary liability in that they become an accomplice by failure to register the SIM card or cards,” Dr Ndemo told the Business Daily in a telephone interview.

The Communications Commission of Kenya had earlier announced that the deadline for blocking unregistered lines would not be extended from last night when the world ushered in the New Year.

“The commission has no intention whatsoever of extending the deadline beyond midnight today (last night). All unregistered SIM cards shall therefore be suspended from service,” said Mutua Muthusi, the CCK director for consumer and public affairs.

The unregistered lines, which would be deactivated after 90 days if the owners do not come forward, represent about a fifth of the 30 million lines in use in Kenya.

Yesterday, the telcos’ service centers were beehives of activities as subscribers rushed to beat the deadline which would see them locked out of voice, data and value-added services such as money transfers.

Dr Ndemo said the new regulations would hold operators liable if any crime was committed through the SIM cards. “Any aggrieved person can sue the telecommunication firms for any crimes committed using the unregistered SIM cards. It will be upon the mobile operators to reveal the identity of the person,” said Dr Ndemo. 

The past few months have recorded an increase in reported kidnappings, mostly perpetuated through mobile phones. Some of the victims were killed after their families failed to pay the ransoms demanded by the criminals.

CCK is enforcing the registration under the Miscellaneous Amendment Act No 12 of 2012 on the Kenya Information and Communication Act which compels mobile operators to keep a register of the people they provide services to.

Under the Kenya Information Act, the mobile operators face a fine of Sh500,000 for any breach of the Act.

CCK indicated Monday that by last Friday, 80.4 per cent of the 30 million SIM cards had been registered. Safaricom, the largest operator, had 2.9 million subscribers unregistered out of its 19.6 million subscribers. Airtel had not registered 822,526 out of 4.7 million subscribers.

Orange and Essar had 1,278,193 and 1,131,632 unregistered respectively. Orange has 3,279,509 subscribers while Essar’s yU has 3,233,234. 
Yesterday’s deadline marks the end of a switch-off plan first set for implementation in 2009 but postponed several times due to lack of legal backing.

In July 2009, President Kibaki directed that all mobile SIM cards be registered but the process started a year later after the legal processes were implemented. The operators have been held back from a switch-off by fear of possible legal suits from their clients. This has given criminals, including those incarcerated in maximum security prisons, a field day as they use their unregistered phones to extort or con their victims.

1 | 2 Next Page»