Capital FM (Nairobi)

Kenya: SMS Service Terminated After TNA Con Outcry

Nairobi — Safaricom has now terminated its contract with a company licensed to use short code 3839 that was used to send fraudulent text messages to subscribers purporting to be from The National Alliance Party.

Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore says the contract with Datalex was cancelled following an internal investigation which revealed breach of contract.

"This follows internal investigations arising from complaints by The National Alliance party (TNA) that people masquerading as party officials were using the short code to defraud innocent people of their money," Collymore's statement said.

TNA Secretary General Onyango Oloo had complained to Safaricom accusing the content provider of using the party's name to con members of the public.

Safaricom indicated that it had referred the matter to industry regulator the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) to take action against the potential breach of license conditions and statutory obligations by Datalex which offers a regulated service.

Under the terms of service with Safaricom, Datalex was not allowed to send political messages to subscribers and their "actions therefore constitute a material breach of contract."

"As we approach the general election, we will institute clear guidelines for political messaging to ensure that there is no recurrence of this unfortunate episode. We will also exercise zero tolerance for any of our partners found guilty of any such abuse of our Short Code Services," Collymore warned.

TNA officials told the police that a group calling itself Supreme Candidate Lobby Group had been sending text messages from short code 3839 asking people whether they support Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta for the presidency, and ended up asking them to send Sh225 via MPESA to support him.

"The group has been going around in the past one week, extorting money from members of the public using the name of Uhuru Kenyatta or purporting to be associated to him," Oloo, the party's secretary general told journalists at the Central police station on Thursday when the party lodged a formal complaint with the police.

He said the lobby group had been going about pretending or purporting to conduct opinion polls through number 3839.

"Let it be known that we have nothing to with it as a party."

"As a party, we do not have such a lobby group; we are not party to it, and it is an extortion group. We are not running any fundraising," he said.

Oloo said many Kenyans are losing their money to the groups' tricks, which he said have nothing to do with the party.

"This is character assassination, these are people out to spoil the name of the party and if it is politically motivated we ask them to desist immediately. We have reported the matter and we want police to take action," he added.

Oloo said even some of the party members had received similar text messages and lost money.

TNA said its official short codes remain 6551 for the party and 4878 for Uhuru Kenyatta.

Central divisional Police chief Eric Mugambi told Capital FM News that an investigation was underway, and pledged action will be taken to those found responsible.

"We are investigating the issue because a complaint was lodged here," Mugambi said.

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