Kenya: Consumers Sue Safaricom Over Number Transfers


Seven customers have sued Safaricom, claiming damages for delayed processing of their mobile number portability requests.The case sets the stage for class action suits against service providers as consumers begin to exercise their rights under the new Constitution.

In a case filed at the High Court on May 11, Alex Gakuru, Humphrey Atuti, Brian Kimani, Alice Njoki, Joseph Mwangi, Mwaura Dennis and Jackson Enonda are seeking damages for loss of business and an order directing Safaricom to activate their ported numbers without hindrance.

Through their lawyer, Kiarie and Njuguna and Company Advocates, Gakuru said he could not access Humphrey Atuti and Jackson Enonda whose mobile numbers had been ported but were either fully or partially deactivated on various dates, thereby violating their right to freely communicate and as a result lost business.

"The actions of the defendant are unconstitutional, unlawful and meant to force the plaintiff to remain in the defendant's mobile network thereby depriving them their constitutionally protected freedom of consumer choice," read the plaint by Kiarie and Company Advocates.

The seven want the High Court to order Safaricom to implement the mobile network porting guidelines and are also seeking for punitive damages. This is the second case at the High Court since mobile number portability -- a service that allows mobile phone users to switch networks without changing their preferred numbers -- begun on April 1.

The first case was filed by Safaricom against Porting Access Kenya Ltd, the firm implementing the migration process, where the leading mobile provider asked and obtained an order restraining Porting Access and its chairman from making any defamatory remarks against it until the case it has filed against the two is heard and determined.

Introduced by the industry regulator in April, mobile number portability was also meant to level the playing field among operators. However, since its introduction the exercise has been marred by technical hiccups that have seen Safaricom, Airtel, and Porting Access embroiled in a blame game.

To tackle the problem, Communication Commission of Kenya has been holding meetings with technical groups from the four operators to identify causes of the hitches, but it is yet to release its findings.