NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 23 – The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) has written to mobile phone operators asking them to block counterfeit phones on their networks.
The phones targeted are those whose International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) are not recognisable by the network.
However, the four mobile operators are reluctant to go this way for fear of a backlash from their customers.
Speaking at a media workshop, Safaricom Corporate Affairs Director Nzioka Waita said the CCK was approaching the problem from the wrong end and should instead address how the devices get into the market.
“We must take into consideration the well being of the customers who are key to this process,” Mr Waita said.
He is of the opinion that customers buy what they can afford and know about and should not be punished without being given time to offload their contraband phones.
A meeting between the regulator and the operators has been scheduled for September 9 where they will discuss modalities of implementing the directive.
Mr Waita said among the recommendations operators will be putting on the table include a six-month deadline and consumer education campaign to sensitise customers over the new directive.
“The government through the CCK has the legal mandate to fill in all the loopholes that allow counterfeit phones to flood the market. The CCK has to become a more active player in curbing this (counterfeit mobile devices),” Mr Waita said.
The grey market for mobile devices has been gaining popularity in the country as they ride on the success of the more established brands in the market. Popular handsets in the market include Nokia, LG, Sonny Ericsson and Samsung.
With close to 21 million subscribers, Kenya is an ideal market for handset manufacturers and with it the counterfeits.
“On our own network we have in excess of 800,000 mobile devices that are genuine,” Mr Waita revealed.
The four operators will also be lobbying the Communications Commission of Kenya to come up with new regulations for dealing with counterfeit mobile devices.
Mr Waita said among the recommendations is for the CCK to create a legal structure that tightens the approval of imported devices.
Anti-Counterfeit Authority says that the country loses nearly Sh3.2 billion annually through tax evasion and sale of counterfeit phones, which is emerging as a money minting machine in downtown Nairobi and across major urban centres.