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Counterfeit phones will be cut off Dec 31

NAIROBI, Kenya Sep 9 – Consumers using counterfeit mobile phone handsets have until December 31 to replace the gadgets or have them blocked.

This follows a resolution passed by the Communications Commission of Kenya on Friday in consultation with mobile phone operators over the use of bogus phones in the market.

The CCK had initially set a September 30 deadline but operators, citing the short period given to turn off their customers using fake phones had opposed the idea.

Following the meeting, the regulator said that no new SIM cards would be allowed to operate on fake phones from September 30 while those still using them at the start of 2012 will be cut off from their network.

“Use of counterfeit handsets shall be phased out of the market by the end of the year.  Consumers using counterfeit mobile handsets therefore have (tentatively) up to December 31, 2011 to replace their mobile phones or risk de-activation,” Acting CCK Director General Francis Wangusi said.

Attempts to curb the flow of the fakes through improved policing of the ports of entry and installation of a laboratory to vet imported ICT goods has failed to cut key supply lines in the bottom-end market.

Their lower pricing has also made them popular among consumers faced with strained purchasing power.

The operators had opposed the earlier deadline because it could infringe on customer rights since they thought they had made an honest purchase.

Mr Wangusi said there was need for public awareness to be undertaken to sensitise consumers on the rationale behind the phasing out of counterfeit mobile handsets, the dangers associated with use of counterfeits, and the tentative deadline for deactivation of counterfeit mobile phones.

“Phasing out use of counterfeit handsets shall be done in a coordinated manner to involve all stakeholders including government agencies, industry players, consumers and equipment manufacturers,” Mr Wangusi said.

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The regulator says there are an estimated 2.3 million fake phones in the Kenyan market and fighting counterfeits was proving to be a major challenge.

The regulator will rely on the unique identify attached to the phones commonly known as the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) to pick out counterfeit gadgets.

Mobile operators say genuine phones register both the IMEI code along with a caller’s number on their systems while the fake gadgets record only the caller’s details.

The 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 other urban centres.

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