Equity gets court backing to roll-out thin SIM technology


A member of the House Committee on Communication and Energy tries out a thin SIM card during a hearing on September 5, 2014. FILE PHOTO | DIANA NGILA

After a year-long court battle, Equity Bank can finally go ahead and roll out its thin Sim technology in Kenya.

The suit dismissed by the High Court Friday was filed by businessman Bernard Murage. Mr Murage had argued that Equity Bank had not given proper assurance to its clients concerning the safety of their personal data.

However, High Court Judge Isaac Lenaola ruled that since the Communications Authority and Central Bank of Kenya having approved the roll-out, the court has no reason to interfere “with the merit of a decision clearly falling within the relevant statutory agency without allegations of any irregularities on its part.”

Last year, the Communications Authority of Kenya allowed Equity Bank, through its subsidiary, Finserve Africa Limited, to implement the new technology but on one-year trial basis.

However, a number of cases filed by individuals and organisations have been stalling the roll-out but Friday’s ruling is likely to form a precedent for the go-ahead.

READ: Court stops rollout of Equity Bank’s thin SIMs

“I am convinced to find that the alleged innovation will enhance competition in the provision of services and will be beneficial to those who subscribe to it. I therefore do not see why this court should intervene and block the roll out of the technology, the subject of this petition,” Justice Lenaola added.

The new Sim card is paper-thin and carries an embedded chip. Users overlay it on their primary Sim regardless of their network and can then use services from two providers, thus increasing competition.

Mr Murage had sued FinServe, Equity Bank, the Communications Authority as well as the Central Bank but the judge declined to order the regulator and CBK to stop the project as requested by him.

The judge also declined to rule on request made by the petitioner to consider the concerns of telco Safaricom regarding the technology.

Last year, Safaricom raised objection to the introduction of the service saying the technology will compromise security of M-Pesa system exposing its 19 million money transfer service subscribers to fraud.

“My answer to that submission is simple; I do not have those concerns on record and even if I had, Safaricom is not a party to this petition and it would be against the law for it to agitate its case through third parties or agents without saying so,” Mr Lenaola said.

“I therefore find that the alleged threat to right of privacy has not been proven and the petitioner’s complaints in that regard are dismissed,” the judge concluded.