Kenya: Regulator Moves to Block 'Junk' SMSes


The telecommunications industry regulator CCK has warned operators and content providers over increasing unsolicited text messages, saying they are illegal and an infringement of personal privacy.

Communications Commission of Kenya director-general Charles Njoroge said that in the recent past, they have received many complaints from members of the public with respect to unsolicited text messages generated by telecommunications service providers.

"Users receiving such unsolicited text messages are advised to lodge complaints with their service provider. Should the service providers fail to resolve such complaints, users may come to the commission for further action," Njoroge said in a statement sent to the Nation.

This comes in the wake of the growing number of telemarketing business operators who have swamped mobile phone subscribers with SMSs on deals and offers on their services and products without first seeking the consent of the concerned subscribers.

Safaricom Chief Executive Officer Bob Collymore admitted that whereas a number of their subscribers have complained, the operators have a legal obligation to provide the service once CCK licences the premium mobile content providers.

"However, we are taking steps to address the issue. We have come up with a technical solution, which allows us to block such SMS once the subscribers complain," Collymore said on Tuesday.

CCK's decision comes in the backdrop of a marketing blitz by lotteries and the lure of striking riches quickly, which has seen many Kenyans spend much of their hard-earned money on sending messages to the lottery numbers only to be shocked later on learning that the SMS are charged at premium rates of up to Sh69 per SMS.

Late last week, the commission banned the short code 6969 run by Shinda Smart lottery, accusing the firm of abusing the laid down licence requirements.

"It has come to our attention that the lottery/gaming services are being provided without following the laid down procedures in accordance with provisions in CCK's Content Service Provider license," Mr Njoroge said.

He directed that the use of the telecommunications short code 6969 by Flint East Africa Ltd, the firm running the lottery, and its associates be discontinued with immediate effect.

CCK warned the general public that the use of a telecommunications short code to provide services by any person other than a licensee of the commission is illegal.

Service providers who are licensed to provide lottery services are also required to hold a permit from the Betting and Control Licensing Board.