12 December 2012

Kenya: CCK Exempts IEBC On Bulk Unsolicited Messages

Communications Commission of Kenya has given Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and mobile operators a green light to send out bulk text messages despite opposition from some consumers.

The regulator said the electoral body is exempt from the earlier issued guidelines restricting unsolicited bulk political messages, citing the urgency of the voter registration matter.

But some consumers have been complaining of the multiple messages to their phones ,given some have already registered and efforts to unsubscribe have been unsuccessful.

"The IEBC requested the MNOs to transmit the said messages and in turn the MNOs sought approval from the Commission," said CCK on email.

"The Commission having noted that the matter is of both national and public interest in relation to the upcoming national elections granted conditional approval for the transmission of the messages for the specific purposes and for a specific period," CCK says.

CCK had earlier issued guidelines restricting sending of bulk unsolicited messages in a bid to fight cases of hate speech and incitements. Consumers were to only receive messages from sources they have accepted and can opt out when they want.

"Voting is a constitutional right. Every Kenyan by the constitutional obligation to vote. It is this assumption that they are randomly sending the messages. The guidelines were for political messaging. IEBC has no political agenda," said Information PS Bitange Ndemo on email response.

But Consumer Federation of Kenya said this is a violation of consumer's constitutional right to privacy. Stephen Mutoro, the group's secretary general said, "There are three fatal and actionable mistakes here. First, MSPs gave away personal numbers of their subscribers".

" Second, IEBC never allows the functionality of stopping the text messages and it is the consumer who pays for the "stop" sms. I've personally sending 3 stop messages and the intrusive messages still come" Mutoro said.

"We are putting IEBC, MSPs and CCK that if they do not stop this nuisance immediately and give out a public notice we will have no option than to sue for both direct and indirect messages. However well meaning the content ,it is illegal," Mutoro said.

Top mobile provider, Safaricom insists it has done no wrong. "Safaricom does not share confidential subscriber information with any third parties.

We have partnered with the IEBC. They use our SMS platform to disseminate voter education ahead of the general elections," said the Corporate Affairs Director, Nzioka Waita on Monday.

"We are on record as having terminated contracts of Premium Service Providers who were abusing the Bulk SMS communications product with reckless political messaging," he added. More recently the company terminated it unlimited SMS bundle offerings noting abuse by people sending bulk messages.

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