Safaricom and Airtel want enjoined in fresh SIM cards registration case


Airtel Money and Safaricom M-PESA shops adjacent to each other on Banda Street. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

Safaricom and Airtel have filed a notice of appointment of law firms to defend the telcos in a case filed by a Kenyan residing in the UK seeking to block fresh registration of mobile phone SIM cards.

Mr Eliud Karanja Matindi named the two leading mobile operators as respondents in the case that seeks to quash a directive by the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) requiring mobile services operators to register their customers afresh.

Safaricom has appointed the law firm Muriu, Mungai & Co. Advocates while Airtel has appointed Messrs Majanja Luseno & Company advocates.

The regulator has given the mobile operators up to 15 of this month to register their customers afresh. Those that will not have been registered by then, risk being deactivated.

CA ordered the registration in an effort to weed out criminals and improve data accuracy. 

Mr Karanja, however, says the directive for fresh registration for those already registered is illegal.

The activist said the directive might force the telcos to suspend the services of any of their subscribers who will not have registered their mobile telephone lines as required from April 15, with the deactivation of service 90 days after such suspension, if still not registered.

“As a precondition for this fresh registration, all natural persons must submit to have their photographs taken, processed and retained,” he said. 

The collection of photographic images is allegedly for security purposes as part of their know your customer process to safeguard their customers as well as for due diligence in accordance with Anti-Money Laundering purposes.

Mr Karanja wants the court to compel the telcos to delete and expunge from their records and systems photographs of persons who are registered mobile subscribers, collected during the registration process.

He further wants the High Court to quash the Kenya Information and Telecommunication Regulation 2014.

According to the activist, the directive from the CA is unconstitutional and, therefore, null and void and any collection, processing, and retention of photographs by mobile telephone service operators are unconstitutional.

“The Directive from the 1st Respondent for the 1st and 2nd Respondents and the Interested Party to carry out fresh registration of their existing and already registered mobile telephone service subscribers are unconstitutional and, therefore, null and void,” he said in an affidavit.

The case will be heard on June 8.