26 February 2013

Uganda: Agents Charging Money for SIM Card Registration

With two days left to the deadline for the SIM card registration, some unscrupulous agents are charging money from subscribers before they register them.

Almost 80% or about 14.4 million mobile phone subscribers have registered their SIM cards, according to the latest statistics from the regulator.

There are about 18 million mobile phone subscribers in Uganda and those who will not have registered by Thursday February 28, 2013 will suffer the inconvenience of having their SIM cards deactivated until they register.

Fred Otunnu, the Uganda Communications Commissions (UCC) spokesman, said yesterday they were making a final compilation of registered subscribers as the deadline approaches.

"We are collecting from different regions. By percentage we are moving closer to 80%," said Otunnu.

There are eight registered telecommunication service providers in Uganda including MTN, Airtel, Warid, Orange, utl, Smile, I-telecom and the latest K-2.

Most of the operators had extended the daily deadlines with agents' tents open past 6:00pm.

Otunnu said UCC had been made aware of the complaints of agents charging subscribers but their investigations showed that some people had only taken advantage of the exercise by providing business services like photography and photocopying machines.

"Such were the charges that people established as a fee," said Otunnu.

But Collins Ozelle in Nebbi town said: "Some of the people carrying the registration are charging us sh4,000 to sh7,000," while Daudi Arumukeng, also in Nebbi, said he was asked to pay sh1,000 to have his card registered.

Wilfred Ojok, the UCC marketing and industry analyst, said on Saturday that he had received scores of complaints from locals in Nebbi district that telecom operators were charging them between sh1,500 to sh7,000 in the ongoing registration process.

There were also reports that some agents in Kampala and Mukono were asking for money.

Besides, some subscribers on some of the networks complained that although they had registered, they were still getting messages to the contrary.

Most operators had resorted to issuing warnings preceding phone calls and using ring-back tunes reminding subscribers that they have until the end of the month of February to register their SIM Card, after which they will be disconnected.

Fiona Wall, the Airtel Uganda spokesperson, said the exercise had quickly picked up over the last few days.

The exercise started on March 1, 2012 following the enactment of the Interception of Communication Act which provides for the registration of all existing SIM cards.

Under the umbrella body called the East Africa Communications Organisation (EACO), the East Africa region set mid-2012 as the deadline to have all existing SIM cards registered.

Many subscribers were skeptical about the exercise and how it has been handled. Hamid Mukasa, who could only identify himself as a retail trader, said the registration process was flawed.

"They are saying we are registering our cards in order to fight thieves who use mobile phones. But how will they achieve this when some people can register for other people, how?" he asked.

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