You’ll soon be able to verify if your phone is legit or fake: CA

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) wants to build an online platform where Kenyans can verify the authenticity of their mobile phones in a fresh crackdown on fake phones.

CA wants to develop a web-based platform that will allow mobile phone users to key in their phone’s International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) and search to see if their phone is authentic.

Fake mobile phones are made by manufacturers who steal the design and trademarks of genuine handset firms to deceive buyers.

These knockoffs are often cheaper than the genuine phones which makes them especially attractive to cost-conscious buyers, but they often lack some functionalities and features of genuine ones.

“This project aims to provide consumers with an accessible and user-friendly platform to verify the authenticity of their mobile phones. The platform would allow consumers to check the authenticity of their phones using the phone’s unique IMEI number regardless of their location or financial status,” CA said in a tender document.

“This would empower consumers to identify fake products, promote the use of genuine mobile phones, and reduce the sale of counterfeit phones in Kenya.”

The platform will connect to the GSMA (Groupe Speciale Mobile Association) global device database that keeps details of thousands of authentic mobile phones models, their manufacturers and phone characteristics.

According to the Authority, between 30 percent to 40 percent of mobile phones in the country are counterfeit. CA says that there were about 64.67 million mobile devices being used in Kenya by September 2023.

This means that between 18.87 million and 25.16 million of these mobile devices are fake, according to its estimations.

Counterfeit mobile phones are often distributed through informal channels such as street vendors, online marketplaces, and unlicensed retailers which are difficult to monitor.

CA says that these counterfeit phones often lack safety standards, after-sales support, and warranty, posing significant risks to the health and safety of consumers.

Additionally, the sale of counterfeit mobile phones denies the government potential tax revenue and undermines the growth of the genuine mobile phone industry in Kenya, it added.

The proposed project is a continuation of the 1555 IMEI verification project whose contract ended in March 2023. The contract that ran for three years was successfully used by consumers to verify the authenticity of the GSM mobile devices.

According to CA, the proliferation of counterfeit phones in the country can be attributed to factors such as the high cost of genuine phones, weak enforcement of intellectual property laws, and a lack of awareness among consumers.

“The Communications Authority of Kenya and the contractor offering the IMEI verification service will jointly manage the project. To this end, the two institutions will enter into a management contract that, among others, defines the responsibilities of each party,” the regulator said.

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