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Kenya

Kenya switches off 1 million phones

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 1 – The Communications Commissions of Kenya (CCK) said more than one million fake mobile handsets had been switched off on Monday when the exercise begun.

CCK acting Director General Francis Wangusi said Airtel had disconnected 740,000 handsets from its network, Safaricom 680,000, while Orange had blocked 75,000 handsets. yuMobile had not handed its data to the regulator by Monday afternoon.

Wangusi explained that the switch-off was to happen gradually to avoid technical hitches on the operators’ end.

“We are happy we have received cooperation from the service providers and I am sure before the end of business today (Monday), the exercise will be over,” Wangusi said.

“We deeply regret the inconvenience and anxiety that this exercise has caused amongst our customers. We realise that they have little to do with presence of these counterfeit devices in the country and it is unfortunate that they have had to shoulder the negative consequences of the same,” Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore stated.

“In order to mitigate the inconvenience we have been contacting all affected customers and providing them with the option of purchasing affordable genuine phones or redeeming their Bonga Loyalty Scheme Points for new handsets,”Collymore added.

He further called on the Government to reconsider the impending decision to impose VAT on mobile phones saying the move would make genuine mobile phones unaffordable to the majority of Kenyans and instead fuel the black market trading of counterfeits.

CCK says the number of the fake handsets maybe less than earlier estimate of 2.5 million, adding that many Kenyans have already replaced the handsets with original ones.

“We will issue a statement on the exact number and give a brief about the whole exercise. But we are happy everything is going on well,” Wangusi said.

“Those with their phones still on, and they are counterfeit should not celebrate because eventually they will go off and it’s for the good of this country,” he emphasised.

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The switch-off, which also targets unregistered sim cards, is expected to affect the mobile phone money transfer services, resulting in loss of revenue and inconvenience to users.

CCK has, however, set a budget to meet the costs incurred by operators in effecting the switch-off, though the consumers will not be compensated.

By switching off the fake phones, CCK will be in compliance with the Kenya Information and Communications Regulations 2012, which requires all mobile phones to be type approved.

Contravention of this statute attracts a jail term not exceeding three years, a fine not more than Sh300, 000 or both.

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