Why switching off counterfeit mobile phones should be welcomed by Kenyans
About 5 million Kenyans who own counterfeit mobile phones will not be able to enjoy telecommunication services starting 1st October this year after a notice issued by CCK three months ago to have them switched off expires in a few days.
“All counterfeit handsets shall be switched off on September 30th this year without fail. For the avoidance of doubt, we wish to categorically state here and now that there shall be no further extension of the deadline. As we have indicated in the past, the switch off of counterfeit handsets is being done to protect consumers and to safeguard the gains made so far in the mobile telecoms industry, particularly in regard to mobile money payment systems,” said the Communications Commission of Kenya Director General, Mr. Francis W. Wangusi on Wednesday.
Many consumers in Kenya have over the last five years or so come to own the counterfeit mobile phones which have also been popularly christened ‘China Mobiles.’ Some of the buyers have however been unsuspecting victims of carefully imitated and deceptively branded phones resembling well known phone makers like Nokia and Apple.
Those who have bought them knowingly and all too willingly have done so in the past with substantially good reason. First, these phones are usually quite a huge bargain for those who cannot afford the real thing. They do quite an impressive job of copying and reproducing most of the original’s features, and sometimes also provide soothingly near equal experience in terms of functionality.
However, both these groups of consumers enjoy this stolen pleasure at an unfathomable cost. The truth behind counterfeit mobile phones is that they rarely undergo any checks to guarantee their safety or the lack thereof.
Some of the dangers that lurk with these mobile devices are associated with the hardware, for instance the battery quality, which when compromised could leak harmful chemicals. The cheap but poor quality earphones might also most likely be harmful in the long term to your hearing.
If these and other health hazards are not reason enough to ignore them, the aesthetic put- off of the phones should give you the best recourse since in as much as they may look impressive when new, a few weeks into their lifespan reveals swift attrition of color & logos, and the whole frame systematically tends towards eventually falling apart.
For those Kenyans whose ‘expensive’ phones are going to be switched off following the termination of their device licenses, a reprieve is being dangled for them, akin to the proverbial straw for the drowning man.
“We are pleased to note that the mobile operators and equipment manufacturers have already brought in affordable genuine mobile phones to ensure that no one is disconnected on account of inability to afford,” said Mr. Wangusi of the CCK in a statement.
It is also worth noting that this is the third time the regulator has tried to have operators deny services to holders of counterfeit mobile phones.
According to the Anti-Counterfeiting Agency (ACA), the economy loses up to Ksh.3.2 billion in tax revenues occasioned by counterfeit mobile phones. The operators equally lose billions of shillings in revenue at the same time while on the other hand the use of these handsets ruins the reputation of their networks as the counterfeits offer substandard services.
Many retailers of these mobile devices will also have to absorb the massive losses in investment which run into millions of shillings, now that it has become illegal for them to keep selling these devices.
According to Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek) Manufacturers, the Kenya Revenue Authority, the police and the Kenya Bureau of Standards have been blaming each other for the proliferation of the counterfeits in the first place.
The consumer lobby group posits that the current penalties and fines are too lax to discourage the crime. Infringement of intellectual property rights attracts a fine of not more than Sh2 million or imprisonment not exceeding three years, regardless of the value of goods. Such penalties do little to stop a potentially lucrative, albeit illegal, business in a market that has weak oversight.
CCK has put up a system to ensure that users can ascertain the authenticity of their mobile devices before the switch off date. This system requires that all mobile phone users send their devices’ International Mobile Equipment Identification (IMEI) numbers to the number 1555 in order to receive an instant confirmation of their devices’ authenticity. This should be done without any costs incurred to the clients regardless of the mobile service provider.
The first three confirmatory SMS messages to the database are free of charge, after which the normal rates for SMS shall apply.
The IMEI can be retrieved by simply dialing *#06# or manually by checking the 15-digit number below the battery of the phone.
According to industry experts, without an IMEI number, a mobile device is almost impossible to trace and therefore makes the job of tracking criminals similarly impossible.
“We therefore call on all Kenyans to support this noble initiative in order to secure our country from the threat of terrorism, lawlessness and political violence.” Mr. Wangusi said.
Do you support the switch-off of counterfeit mobile phones?