KAMPALA —Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has advised advised customers to check the IMEI before purchasing a device. This can be done by simply dialling *#06#. In most phones, the IMEI is usually printed inside the handset, below the battery.
This 15-digit code is a number assigned to each mobile device manufactured in accordance with internationally agreed safety and quality requirements. In simple terms, an IMEI is the serial number of a mobile device.
The IMEI is automatically registered with the mobile service provider as soon as a device has been activated. For every call made, the mobile device provider gets to know the IMEI number. If the device is dual-SIM by design, which means both SIM cards can be connected to the network at the same time, it has two IMEI numbers.
Illegitimate, cloned or missing IMEI aside, counterfeit devices tend to have the following characteristics;
Manufacturer’s logo appears superficial and easy to rub off
Colour of the device is not among those indicated by the manufacturer for that particular model
The device has different features from those associated with that model according to the manufacturer
Devices of the same make and model appear in different sizes and shapes.
However, ‘counterfeit’ does not necessarily mean ‘sub-standard’. While counterfeit devices tend to be substandard, some devices that are not necessarily counterfeit are equally substandard.
Therefore, the surest way to confirm a device’s legitimacy is having an authentic IMEI number, which is also the basis for satisfying the minimum international standards required for quality and safety.
To promote and safeguard the interests of consumers, the Commission undertakes the following:
Ease the process of identifying counterfeit devices by establishing the Central Equipment Identification Registry (CEIR)
Collaborate with Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) to control the importation of counterfeit phones
Partner with the Uganda Police to enforce compliance with the legal aspects of counterfeiting in Uganda
Liaise with authentic device dealers regarding certification and authorisation of specific vendors or outlets to sell genuine products
Engage importers, traders, consumers and other stakeholders in preparation for counterfeit device eradication.
Counterfeit communication devices are a challenge in other countries too.
In April 2019, Kenya’s Anti Counterfeit Authority seized counterfeit mobile phones worth KShs 10 million (UShs 360 million) in a sting operation. This followed a complaint from Samsung’s brand protection agency.
In the United States, more than 4,000 counterfeit smartphones were in August 2019 seized at the Unites States port of Philadelphia in two shipments from China. A government official said they would be destroyed.
Commenting on the move to dump all counterfeit communication devices, UCC Executive Director Mr Godfrey Mutabazi called for the support of all stakeholders.
“The communications sector is implementing a coordinated approach to fight against fake and counterfeit phones in light of the global nature of communication systems,” he said.
“This will require the active role of stakeholders rather than one-off unilateral actions that are not effective.”
The Commission is banking on telecommunications service providers, the police, URA and other stakeholders to ensure a counterfeit communication device free Uganda.