By Isaac Baligema
Mobile phone dealers are already feeling the pinch following the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) announcement that counterfeit gadgets will be switched off at the end of November.
A New Vision mini-survey this week indicated that customers were careful about the brand of phones they buy and their countries of origin.
“They (clients) no longer want to purchase the ‘Made in China’ phones because they believe most Chinese phones are fake. They do not want to lose their monies when
UCC’s notice finally takes effect,” Martha Nakato, a mobile phone dealer at Mutaasa Kafeero Plaza, said.
The plaza is one of the biggest mobile phone dealerships in downtown Kampala.
“Most people nowadays want to know where the phone was made and if it is from China, they tend to lose interest but this was not the case before.
“I do not know what we are going to do because 80 to 90% of the phones we sell are from China,” Nakato noted.
On Monday, at least 1.5 million mobile phone users in the neighbouring Kenya had their services blocked for using fake handsets after the expiry of the Communications Commission of Kenya September 30 deadline.
However, Isaac Kalembe, the UCC’s public relations officer, said they will not take Kenya’s route and block existing subscribers, but rather new subscribers will not be able to access any telecommunications network using fake phones.
“We shall not block existing customers because we know people spent money to acquire their handset and might affect them in so many ways.
“However, after November, no one will be able to access any network using a fake phone.
“The new buyers should be aware of the phones they are buying,” noted Kalembe.
He warned buyers and dealers to be careful because fake phones from Kenya were likely to find their way into Uganda.
“It is a simple process. If you are buying a new phone, simply check it by dialing *#06# to see the phone’s IMEI number.
If the seventh and eighth digits end with 00, 02 or 20 that phone is a counterfeit, but if it ends with 01 or 10, it is from Finland and it is genuine,” explained Kalembe.
The scare announcement by UCC late last month has boosted the firms like Simba Telecom, Midcom, MTN, Airtel, Warid, Orange and Uganda Telecom, who are said to be making a kill as many people run away from the street shop dealers.
However, New Vision could not independently verify this claim.
Kalembe maintained that not all Chinese phones were fake and not all European phones were genuine.
“People should not take it for granted that Chinese phones are fake while European phones are genuine. Fake handsets come from everywhere and this is what we are trying to stop because they are a health and an environmental hazard,” said Kalembe.