Court action over fake phone switch-off
- Parent Category: Mobile
- Published on 23 July 2012
The Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) is going to court to try to stop the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) and local mobile operators from switching off counterfeit mobile phones, ahead of a September 30 deadline.
The CCK and telcos are planning to deny services to about 2.4 million subscribers said to be using counterfeit handsets.
Fake phones have International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) numbers that are of the incorrect sequence or duplicates of genuine serial codes. Every time a mobile users switches their phone on and off, the devices send a signal to the mobile operator about the details of the IMEI number. From this data, operators can determine as to whether a device is fake or not.
However, Cofek says the CCK has no mandate to switch off phones, because consumers using both prepaid and postpaid services have contracts with mobile operators that guarantees them services without interruption.
“Switching off mobile phones is in contravention of consumer rights,” said Stephen Mutoro, secretary-general of Cofek.
Mutoro said government agencies like the Anti-Counterfeit Agency, Kenya Revenue Authority(KRA) , Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and the Kenya Police - which ought to bar the entry of counterfeit goods into the country - have failed in their mandate.
“We have porous borders and people smiling all the way to the bank after selling fake phones while Government agencies sleep on the job,” said Mutoro.
Cofek has also said it will be suing the CCK on the basis that using IMEI to determine as to whether a mobile phone is fake or not is not fool proof, potentially resulting in some holders of genuine handsets being affected.
Cofeck says that not all handset manufacturers are members of the GSM Association and, therefore, while some consumers phones maybe genuine, their IMEI numbers might not be in the GSMA database, and they could be switched off.
According to the permanent secretary in the ministry of information and communication, Dr. Bitange Ndemo, use of counterfeit devices, which are manufactured without due consideration to the recognised security standards, may expose mobile money systems as well as the wider banking and financial system to unnecessary risks.
This is the CCK's third attempt to have operators deny services to holders of counterfeit phones, as previous deadlines had been postponed.