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Kenya Phone users face huge fines under new, tough rules

People making calls.

People making calls.

Mobile phone users who give false information when registering their Sim cards will be fined Sh100,000 or be jailed for six months in new regulations to curb phone crimes.

Contravening the new rules will lead to a fine not exceeding Sh5 million for mobile phone companies while agents committing offences under the regulations, will be fined Sh500,000 or a jail term of up to one year.

Persons committing other offences under the regulations will face a fine of Sh300,000.

The new rules are awaiting gazettement before they come into force.

“We have enhanced the penalties to ensure that everyone, right from the mobile firms to the agent and the subscriber, is accountable,” Mr Francis Wangusi, the director-general of the Communications Authority of Kenya said Tuesday.

The rules are designed to seal loopholes in the existing law and were endorsed by key players in the telecommunications sector. They are in line with provisions in the recently enacted Kenya Information Communication Act, 2013.

Once they come into force, they will override the January 2013 regulations which imposed a fine of Sh300,000 or a jail term of three years to telecom firms failing to comply with the law on registration of Sim cards.

The regulator has also enhanced rules on registering Sim cards by minors. For anyone below the age of 18 to get a mobile telephone line, one has to be accompanied by a legal guardian and produce a valid birth certificate.

However, their legal guardians will remain liable for all activities carried out using the Sim cards. Upon reaching the age of majority, the teenagers will assume full responsibility for the lines.

“…a licensee shall advise a minor registered as a user under this regulation to register his or her personal identification details according to regulation 5 and 6 within a period of ninety days of attainment of the age of majority,” the rules read in part.

Companies registering Sim cards will now be required to provide identification details for at least one director in addition to the certificate of incorporation or registration.

The length of time that mobile operators are required to archive the bio-data of subscribers after the deactivation of a Sim card has been increased from one to two years. Sale of phone lines has also been restricted to mobile phone firms and their licensed agents while all pre-activated lines have been banned.

After several false starts since 2009, the government launched the campaign to deactivate unregistered lines in earnest last year in a campaign to combat crimes perpetrated by anonymous subscribers.

Mr Wangusi, however, acknowledged that some line owners remain unaccounted for due to “technical hitches”.

“We would not say that we are 100 per cent foolproof that everyone is registered,” he said.

In the wake of the Westgate terror attack last September 21, the government clamped down on mobile firms and their agents, arresting individuals across the country, who had been caught selling pre-activated Sim cards amid claims that unregistered Sim cards were used by criminals during the terror attack.

REGIONAL SECURITY

In a December meeting in Nairobi, communication sector ministers from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan agreed to establish a cross-border Sim card registration framework in order to combat crime.

Unregistered lines roaming in East Africa, the ministers said, were to be treated as a regional security issue.

The implementation of these new regulations comes within the wider context of reforms that the communications authority is implementing in the telecoms sector.

Before the end of this year, the authority will put in place new standards for assessing the quality of service offered by mobile phone companies and data service providers. Currently, it assesses firms on the basis of eight key performance indicators ranging from speech quality to the number of dropped calls.

Mr Wangusi said a consultant had been contracted to help the government expand the indicators to SMS and data services.

The authority also plans to outsource the job of assessing the quality of service to a third party to “infuse efficiency” in the process.

“Because of the segmentation in the industry, we want to ensure continuous monitoring and we are in the process of hiring contractors to be able to do that,” said Mr Wangusi.

QUALITY OF SERVICE

This comes in the wake of row between the regulator and one of the operators, Safaricom, over last year’s quality of service assessment.

The government’s analysis indicated that the operator had failed to meet minimum standards, a position that saw Safaricom question the methodology used in the assessment.

Quality of service is tied to the renewal of licences issued to telecom operators and Safaricom’s is set to expire this year.

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