It is illegal to have an unregistered SIM card in Kenya.
This has been known for a while now, and while stakeholders, including Safaricom and the likes of the Communications Authority (CA) have been at the forefront of the law, it appears that people are still getting away with unregistered lines.
We have, for a while now, been seeing people complain that other parties have their credentials (IDs) registered on SIM cards that they do not own, and did not initiate the registration process in the first place. This development, particularly, has been highlighted in a The Star story where a customer sued Safaricom over the illegal registration of a SIM card.
It is mainly dangerous to do so for a variety of reasons:
- Culprits may use those SIM cards for illegal activities and in that case, law authorities will zero down to a person whose credentials were used for registration.
- In a Kenyan market where online loans are just one click away, such cases may see people use other people’s IDs to request loans that they do not intend to pay (as is the Star case). In the end, a person’s credit score and records could be destroyed without their knowledge.
In that case, you may need to confirm if your ID has been to register lines that you do not own. To confirm:
- Visit a care centre shop, be it Safaricom or Airtel or Faiba. They will confirm this for you.
- Alternatively, Safaricom, which is the leading operator in Kenya (hence its network is the most abused because such fraud cases require M-PESA services complete online loans), has a very active social media presence. You can DM them your details and they will check it out for you.
In case your ID has been used elsewhere, then we believe that you have to drop by a care centre to have those illegal lines expunged.
But how did we get here? And what happened to your having a max of two SIM cards associated with your ID number? How can operators ensure that this dangerous trend is eliminated completely?
Truth be told, data protection laws in Kenya are hardly enforced. We have seen online loan apps, and the recent case of illegal political party registration by the ORPP ignore basic data protection regulations, which highlight the grave nature of the space. Kenyans also leave a ton of their information at places such as building entrances, and in some instances, such information is never secured and ends up in the wrong hands.
Whether the office of the data commissioner is ready to showcase its power about these blatant abuses is something we have been waiting for a long time; the Data Protection Bill 2019 came into effect at the end of that year, and the office of the Data Commissioner was established fully in late 2020.