19 January 2013

Kenya: Harsh Penalties for Phone Users Illegal

MOBILE operators have up to February 11 to register all Sim cards on their networks before they start attracting penalties for having unregistered subscribers.

However, the penalties on users, as earlier mentioned by Information PS Bitange Ndemo, are found to be non-existent. About one million mobile subscribers have registered their Sim cards in the last two weeks due to fears of attracting heavy penalties or having their lines suspended.

At the beginning of this month, Ndemo announced that users found to be using unregistered lines could attract a three year jail term and/or Sh300,000 fines. A closer look at the concerned law and regulations show they do not contain these heavy penalties on mobile users.

The Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act No 12 of 2012, amended the Kenya Information and Communications Act, Cap 411A, to provide for the registration of telecommunication subscribers and require mobile operators to maintain a register of all persons to whom telecommunications services are provided.

According to the Act, operators who do not comply will attract the Sh300,000 fine for every line but no consequence on the subscriber is stated except disconnection.

"You can find this in the Miscellaneous Amendment Bill that was passed at the end of last year," said Ndemo on inquiry where the users' fine are contained. But an industry source says the customer punishment is not anywhere in the Act.

The regulations outlining the procedures were gazetted on January 11 but they also say nothing on penalising users. The operators say they have taken responsibility to suspend unregistered user even before the gazettement was done.

Safaricom said it had registered more than 500,000 lines between January 1-10 while Airtel reported about 470,000 new registrations. Orange and Essar recorded 60,000 and 87,000 registrations respectively by the end of last week.

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