SIM cards hawkers will soon face six months in jail, Sh300,000 fine or both under proposed Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) regulations that crack down on street sales in a move that could render thousands jobless.
The new rules, which will be effective once gazetted, aim to streamline SIM card registration by agents, which has been a headache to the regulator and telcos like Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom due to fraudulent use by some subscribers.
Telcos are further compelled to only employ registration agents who the CA has licensed with those found in breach of the regulations facing penalties.
“Telecommunications Operators and Registration Agents shall sell and register SIM cards only in formal retail outlets even during promotions, and shall ensure no hawking of SIM card registration services,” the proposed guidelines say.
Under the Registration of SIM Card Registration Regulations (2015), anyone who is not licensed to sell and register SIM cards is liable to a fine not exceeding Sh300,000 or to six months imprisonment or both if found guilty of the offence.
Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom Kenya and their agents have in recent times turned to SIM card hawkers in efforts to grow their subscribers in what CA says fuels fraudulent registrations that aid criminal activity.
Under the proposed guidelines, the regulator has also directed telcos to set up a portal through which they will submit quarterly reports for access by the authority. The reports will among others include data on firms’ new registered subscribers and those switched off.
The stringent rules, which are subject to public participation, come a year after the regulator ordered Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom to deactivate fraudulently registered SIM cards that saw more than 0.5 million subscribers switched off.
Airtel said it switched off 584,134 SIM cards while Telkom deactivated 14,373 subscribers from its network following the directive.
Safaricom holds more than half of the local mobile phone users at 33.1 million out of the total 52.17 million subscribers, according to industry data as at the end of June.
The data by the CA shows that Airtel had 12.8 million with Telkom Kenya third at 4.2 million.
The two are set to merge as they seek to shake Safaricom’s dominance.