Chief executives of the three mobile networks have escaped with a warning from the regulator for allowing use of unregistered SIM cards on their platforms against the law.
Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) Thursday said some 62 hawkers of SIM cards have been apprehended and arraigned in courts since 2015 when the SIM registration rules were enforced.
Thirty four of them have been penalised, while others have warrants of arrest hanging over their heads. The Kenya Information and Communications (Registration of SIM-Cards) Regulations, 2015, outlaws hawking of SIM cards, a practice the CA said was still rampant in the country. Breach of the SIM card registration rules attracts a maximum fine of Sh500,000 or a year in jail or both for vendors, while mobile operators are liable to a fine not exceeding Sh5 million.
"We have given a warning to the operators. By now we expect that there should be no unregistered SIM cards on their networks. We have also asked them to inform their consumers who have not registered in the right way to come and register. Otherwise, we are switching them off," CA director-general Francis Wangiusi said.
"The law requires us to give a warning for rectification, but in circumstances where our warning is not heeded we take drastic action."
Using other persons to register a line is also illegal, while providing false identity information attracts a fine of Sh100,000 or six months in prison or both. The regulator said it was planning a system audit to ascertain whether or not the data given by mobile operators on the listing of SIM cards is true.
"What we are going to do further is try and assess the credibility of information independently to establish if what they give us is true then take regulatory action against them," Mr Wangusi said.
Operators or their agents are required to register SIM cards, capturing the full identity of owners before activating their lines. "The continued use of unregistered SIM cards is not only criminal but also a threat to national security," Mr Wangusi said in a statement.
"Unregistered cards are misused to perpetuate crime, including money laundering, kidnapping, malicious calls, cyber crime and mobile money fraud."
The government enhanced rules and fines for use of unregistered lines following the September 2013 deadly attack on Westgate Mall where terrorist used unregistered SIM cards to coordinate the attack.