Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Kenya`s ``fake`` phone dealers face an uncertain future as CCK`S deadline to switch off the devices near

Customers look at displayed cell-phones at a shop along Luthuli Avenue in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, on March 9,
2012.  Communication Commission of Kenya (CCK) has  announced that it will cut off fake cell phones from the four service providers in the east African nation on Sept. 30.

By Bedah Mengo
 Business persons in Kenya dealing with supposed counterfeit mobile phones are facing an uncertain future as the government readies to switch off all
unlicensed handsets end of this month.

The traders are bracing for tough times in the coming months as they hold on to their stock, which mainly comprises of low-cost mobile phones. Many of them are already
counting losses as people shun buying mobile phones from them for fear that they will not use them once the switch-off is implemented. Communication Commission of
Kenya (CCK), which is currently running a public awareness campaign on the exercise, announced that it will cut off the cell phones from the four service providers in the east
African nation on Sept. 30.

The regulator noted counterfeit handsets are hazardous and pose risks to Kenyans. The risks include emission of radiations that could affect health of users since the
manufacturers of the mobile phones allegedly do not follow safety standard while making them. CCK further argued the mobile phones affect network operations since they
do not connect effortlessly. "Counterfeit phones are unable to connect seamlessly with network providers, leading to network congestion and dropped calls, " noted the
regulator, who blames the gadgets for rise in mobile phone fraud and other crimes in the east African nation.

Kenya's Anti-Counterfeit Authority estimated the country loses 38.5 million U.S. dollars annually through tax evasion on sale of fake handsets.The cut-off is expected to affect
more than 3 million subscribers in Kenya's rapid growing mobile phone industry. And as some mobile phone users buy licensed handsets and others wait to see what will
happen after the expiry of the notice, sellers of fake cell phones are pondering their next move."We do not know what we will exactly do with our stock since it is obvious that
we cannot sell them in Kenya," Gabriel Ngeru, who runs a mobile phone shop in River Road, a popular backstreet in Nairobi's central business district, said on Monday.

For about two years, Ngeru has done brisk business as he sells the gadgets, especially to low-income earners. The dealer specializes in the low-cost handsets, which have
several features that include radio, camera, bluetooth and internet connection. Ngeru sells the mobile phones at between 17 dollars and 120 dollars. "Most people liked the
multi-faceted phones because they were affordable. For about 40 dollars, one could get a handset similar to the one going at over 200 dollars in high-end shops," said Ngeru.  
The trader, as many others in the business district, opposes the move to switch off supposed counterfeit phones, arguing that some of them are genuine. "The mobile phones
will be switched mainly because they do not have International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, but this does not mean they are counterfeit," he said. IMEI number
is a unique code used to identify original Global System for mobile gadgets. Mobile phone network operators, among other things, use the number to track stolen mobile
handsets.

Ngeru said some of the phones that they sell will be switched off because they are manufactured by small companies, which have not applied for IMEI number registration.    
"Most of us do not sell imitations of Nokia or Samsung. They are low-cost mobile phones from small companies that do not apply for IMEI range from European GSM
Association because it is not compulsory. This is one of the things that make the phones cheaper, " he said. In his shop, Ngeru displays a variety of low-cost mobile phones and
related gadgets that include chargers, mobile phone skins and covers and batteries."Most of the mobile phones I sell now are obsolete because of the impending switch-off.
Since they announced that they are going to switch off fake cell phones, business has taken a downward turn, " he said.

The trader recounted customers came to his shop and demanded to know whether the phone they buy will be usable after Sept. 30. "Some ask me to follow a procedure
given out by CCK to find out if a mobile phone has IMEI numbers. I have done that for several customers and despite finding out that some of the phones have the number,
they do not believe they are genuine," he said.

Vincent Nasor, who runs a shop adjacent to Ngeru, noted the move to switch off fake handsets in the east African nation only favor big mobile phone manufacturers.   
"People are now going for phones from big companies because they believe they are the only handsets, which are genuine," he said. Ngeru and Nasor estimated they are
going to lose 3,571 dollars and 2,900 respectively in terms of stock by the end of this month. "This is money that we had invested in buying the mobile phones. Some of it was
loan and we have to repay," Nasor said, adding that he is considering quitting the phone business all together. And as they sell the phones considered fake, the traders are
risking serving time in jail since according to Kenya's laws, a person found with the handsets will pay a fine three times the value of the confiscated products or serve a five-
year jail term or both.  (Xinhua)

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