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Uganda: UCC, Standards Body Row Over Fake Phones
Source: The Independent
Source Date: Monday, November 05, 2012
Focus: ICT for MDGs, Internet Governance
Country: Uganda
Created: Nov 06, 2012

The decision by the Uganda Communications Commission to extend the de-linking of fake mobile phones from November 30, 2012 to December 2013 has irked the Uganda National Bureau of Standards, which says the crackdown on fake phones is long overdue. As part of a regional crackdown on fake mobile phones, UCC in September announced that it would force telecommunications companies to make it impossible for fake phone to access their networks. The regional crackdown on counterfeit mobile phones was in response to safety concerns, but the UCC decision to defer the deactivation appears to have been reached following complaints by the telecom companies that it could slow subscriber growth in the country, where mobile phone use jumped to 60% in 2012. Also, hundreds of mobile phone dealers reportedly petitioned the commission saying the crackdown could cause them losses as they had a large number of mobile phones in stock. The Communications Commission of Kenya has already implemented the switch-off of fake phones successfully following the September 30 deadline, but unlike Uganda, their public education and sensitization campaign was running more than 2 years. The UCC reacted following reports that the fake phones that were delinked in Kenya were heading to Uganda, but now appears to have changed its stance saying the fake phones will be allowed to "die a natural death" instead. However, Dr. Ben Manyindo, the UNBS executive director, told journalists on Oct.29 that the Standards body did not approve of the decision to defer the crackdown. "A counterfeit product is a counterfeit, so extending the period in which Ugandans can use fake products does not make sense at all," he said. UNBS is struggling to protect Ugandan consumers amid weak laws, unsupportive institutions and low enforcement capacity. A new anti-counterfeiting Bill, which could force culprits to incur heavy penalties, has been put on hold because sections of the business community fear that it will take them out of business. In developed economies, the decisions of statutory Standards bodies take precedence over other institutions in an effort to protect consumers from hazardous goods and products. About 30% Uganda's estimated 17 million mobile phones are Chinese-made counterfeits, according to study cited by the UCC, which exposes users to dangerous levels of radiation from the untested gadgets.
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