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Counterfeit handset crackdown to be ‘humane’

Kenya’s CCK has given the assurance that the phasing out of counterfeit handsets will be done in such a way that innocent mobile phone users won’t be punished. It is thought that up to three million people could find their phones are fake.

The CCK recently announced a crackdown on grey market and fake mobile phones, with reports that operators would be asked to summarily switch off services to such handsets. This raised fears that millions of consumers who had unwittingly bought grey market devices would suffer.

However, in a statement issued this week, the CCK gave the assurance that the planned phasing out of use of counterfeit handset would be done “iin a humane manner” with minimal inconvenience to mobile telephone users.

Acting CCK Director General Francis Wangusi said CCK would hold a consultative meeting with industry players and other stakeholders on September 9 to discuss the matter with a view to charting a pragmatic solution to the problem.

He said the phasing out of fake handsets was meant to assist mobile users in the recovery of their phones in case of theft through use of tracking equipment. The initiative is also meant to secure mobile money transactions.  

Counterfeit phones come with duplicated or tampered with International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers, making it difficult for mobile operators to use Equipment Identification Registers (EIR) to track and de-activate stolen handsets.

IMEI numbers are important in tracking stolen or handsets used to perpetrate crime. Wangusi said governments globally were putting regulatory mechanisms in place to phase out the use of fake handsets. Counterfeit phones have either duplicated or reprogrammed IMEI numbers.

Wangusi said only 9.93% of the total 25 million mobile subscribers in the country have counterfeit handsets, according to data obtained from mobile phone companies. He affirmed CCK’s commitment towards working closely with industry players in order to eliminate all fake handsets in the market.

At the same time, he urged members of the public to buy handsets from authorized dealers to avoid the risks associated with use of counterfeit handsets.

Changing the identity or interfering with operations of a mobile handset or possession of reprogramming equipment is a crime in Kenya which attracts a fine of Kshs 1,000,000 or imprisonment for a term of up to five years or both.

Wangusi called on those engaging in this business to stop doing so immediately before the law enforcement agencies caught up with them.

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