Kenya tightens war against fake phones

How Africa tweeted Q4 2011
Many phones being sold in Nairobi are probably fake…for a common consumer however it is hard to tell. Photo | Courtesy of Business Daily

Kenya intends to phase out all counterfeit phones in its market by September 30 2012 and has rolled out an awareness campaign to warn consumers.

Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) on Thursday launched a public awareness campaign to educate Kenyans on the risks associated with using counterfeit mobile phones and steps the consumers should take to establish if their mobile phones are genuine.

Dubbed ‘Pata Ukweli wa Mtambo’ (Swahili for Get the truth about the gadget), the campaign will lead up to 30th September 2012 date when Kenya intends to phase out all counterfeit phones.
According to Industry statistics by CCK, close to 3 million mobile phones in the Kenyan market are counterfeit, translating to about 10 per cent of all the active mobile devices in the country.

The regulator says this has not only infringed on the manufacturer’s intellectual property rights, but has also denied the government revenue in form of tax.

According to the Kenya Anti-Counterfeit Authority the country loses around Ksh3.2 billion (US$38.5million), annually through tax evasion on sale of fake handsets, commonly referred to as ‘China phones’.

According to Kenya’s Anti-Counterfeit Act it is an offense manufacture, produce, sell, hire out, barter or exchange a counterfeit item. It is also an offense to exhibit, distribute or import a counterfeit item.

A person convicted counterfeit crime is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or to a fine of not less than three times the value of the prevailing retail price of the goods involved. However, one could be both liable to imprisonment and fine.

In case there is subsequent conviction, one could be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fifteen years or to a fine, not less than five times the value of the prevailing retail price of the goods, or both.

In accordance with Regulation 24 of the Kenya Information and Communications (Importation, Type Approval and Distribution of Communications Equipment) Regulations 2010, requires all mobile phones to be type approved. Contravention of this statute attracts a fine not exceeding three hundred thousand shillings or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both.

‘Pata Ukweli wa Mtambo’ will ran for a period of three months and will be disseminated through TV, radio, print, digital and outdoor platforms.

“As the industry regulator, the CCK is mandated by law to protect consumers of communications services and in consultation with representatives from the four mobile operators, mobile phone manufacturers and relevant government ministries and agencies, we will continue to execute this mandate,” said Mr. Francis Wangusi, Ag. Director General CCK.

“In this era of mobile banking, use of counterfeit devices, which are manufactured without due consideration to the recognized security standards, may expose our mobile money systems as well as the wider banking and financial system to unnecessary risks.

The Government cannot allow this to happen and thus our decision to have all unregistered SIM cards and counterfeit handset mobile phones handsets phased out by 30th September 2012,” said Bitange Ndemo, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication .

Speaking during the launch in Nairobi, Ndemo said that it has become necessary for the government to ensure that all mobile phones are genuine to safeguard the health of consumers and also to promote confidence in “our globally acclaimed mobile innovations.”

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