By Omondi Julius Odera, Nairobi, Kenya
In a bid to curb the sale of counterfeit products, the Kenya Bureau of Standards has introduced an SMS code system to consumers, a move that has increased consumer confidence.
The KEBS innovation is seen as a sign that the East African nation is movingto exploit technology in enhancing service delivery among its citizens. The technology was necessitated by the proliferation of many fake products on the market that led to outcry among the consumers some of whom questioned the relevance of the Quality assurance body. “We were getting many complaints from members of public about the quality of most consumer goods on the market. Our field agents were working tirelessly to enforce quality but as you know many unscrupulous business men used the existing loopholes to bypass the system,” explained Immaculate Chege, a Marketing Officer from KEBS.
It was behind a backdrop of these events that the organisation adopted the innovation of the SMS code system through partnering with a team of lead techies. The platform issues a unique code for every product that is manufactured by a particular manufacturer. For instance, if company A produces five different brands of products, each product will be necessitated to have a unique code which in essence also acts as a permit of production.
If a client or consumer buys product Z and would like to ascertain its status, the consumer forwards the code on the product to 20023. The respond which is in a period of about 10 seconds details the permit number, the name of the brand, when it was certified and even expiry period. “In a nutshell, the details the consumer receives are specifications of the product which gives it a clean bill of health. That way a consumer cannot share one code for all his products or cannot resale it to producer B a practice that was the norm initially before the introduction of the technology,” added Chege.
Each SMS costs Ksh15. However, the consumer only pays Ksh5 because KEBS subsidizes the Ksh10 a move that Chege noted was aimed at encouraging consumers to use the system and not hide behind the curtain of the costly SMS service. The platform allows usage through the lead Telco networks in Kenya namely Safaricom and Airtel.
The SMS code system which was introduced mid last year has immense success according to the KEBS representative “We have witnessed more manufacturer coming to register their products and acquire the unique code. The number of the brands being registered under their unique has more than doubled since the adoption of this technology and to us this is an indicator of success,” noted Chege.