Strict terms for telcos in push to deregister Sim cards

SIM card registration

Members of the public queue outside a Safaricom shop along Kimathi Street in Nairobi on April 7, 2022 to register their mobile phone SIM cards.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

Safaricom, Airtel Kenya, and Telkom Kenya will be required to notify their unregistered subscribers through texts, newspaper adverts, radio, and television before switching off their Sim cards in new proposals ahead of the October deadline set for fresh registration.

The draft Kenya Information and Communications (Registration of Telecommunications Service Subscribers) Regulations, 2022 require telcos to sufficiently notify subscribers who have not registered their mobile phone numbers before their Sim cards are suspended.

“A notice to suspend non-compliant subscribers shall, in the first instance, be in the form of a personal notification from the telecommunications operator to the subscriber and subsequent further notices may be in the form of an advertisement in a newspaper of national circulation; an advertisement in an electronic medium that broadcasts throughout the country,” the regulations read in part. 

The stipulation is contained in the current laws that the regulations seek to replace but have not been effectively enforced by mobile network operators before suspending Sim cards of their non-compliant subscribers.

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) last month extended the deadline for Sim card registration by six months to October 15 to allow millions of users to comply with the directive that is aimed at weeding out fraudsters and other criminals from subscriber databases held by the telcos. The regulator had set a deadline of April 15 for the exercise that was derailed by low compliance on the part of the telcos. At the time of the extension, Safaricom had reported 67 percent compliance while Airtel and Telkom Kenya registered 55 and 33 percent, respectively.

The telcos will also be tasked with verifying the accuracy and authenticity of their subscribers’ details against a national database to ensure that users submit accurate data as opposed to verifying the information against the existing data in their databases under the current law.

 The new regulations also give mobile subscribers an indefinite period within which they ought to stop deactivation of their lines following a complaint lodged against the authenticity of their Sim card registration details to the CA. The current regulations give subscribers a 14-day window to respond to such claims. 

At the same time, subscribers can now own a maximum of 10 lines to their names, except in situations where they’re registering the line on behalf of a child, in a bid to curb mobile crime.

Currently, leading telco Safaricom has no limit to the number of lines a customer can register lines using their identity card but has restricted registration of M-Pesa lines using the same ID to two. Subscribers will also be required to surrender their biometric data such as fingerprints and facial features that enhance their identification.

Telcos, including Safaricom, are already capturing the biometrics of Sim card holders.

At the same time, companies will also be required to submit their CR12 certificates to register their company Sim cards which will give the telcos and in turn the government details of the real owners and directors of the firms using the lines.

CR12 is the official document that is issued by the Company Registrar that provides details on the shareholding or directorship of a firm.

“A telecommunications operator shall grant the authority’s officers access to its systems, premises, facilities, files, records, and other data to enable the authority to inspect such systems, premises, facilities, files, records, and other data for purposes of ensuring compliance with the Act and these regulations,” the regulations stipulate.

The proposals are part of renewed measures by the government to clamp down on fraudsters using mobile phones to defraud victims of money and commit other crimes at a time the use of mobile money has hit record highs while banks are increasingly shifting to digital channels for transactions.