Pre-activated SIM card sales rampant

January 31, 2014

Retailers-telcos nexus alleged
Retailers allegedly in association with the country’s mobile phone companies are selling pre-activated subscriber identification module cards in the capital, violating laws.
Stores across the Dhaka city were found selling pre-activated SIM cards and retailers there do not demand any documents although proper documentation of a subscriber’s information is mandatory as per Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission laws.
Officials of law enforcement agencies said the violation of law lend a helping hand to criminals and the police are facing problems in tracking criminals because of false registration of SIM cards.
As per a BTRC directive issued on September2012, any mobile connection will be activated after the subscriber submits documents like copy of his/her national identity card and photograph to the retailer and the mobile company concerned completes verification.
The daily New Age on Wednesday bought Grameenphone SIM (01791665698), Banglalink SIM (01953702465), Robi SIM (01853692932) and Airtel SIM (01622589912) from different stores in the city without submitting any document.
All the numbers were found activated at the purchase and this reporter was able to make calls from the SIM cards just after the purchase.
Retailers said sales of pre-activated SIM cards of state-run Teletalk were more frequent than that of the private companies.
When contacted, Airtel and Banglalink denied making any comment on the matter while Robi said they had valid documents for its SIM bought by New Age but it was registered to some other person.
Robi also said as the SIM was sold to the registered person as per the record the company would not be liable for such incident until the registered person does not file any official complaint with the company.
Grameenphone said, ‘Grameenphone always respects the laws of the land and abides by the regulatory directives. GP also expects its distributors and retailers to strictly follow BTRC directives. Despite our effort availability of a pre-active SIM is unfortunate and we have initiated our internal process to identify the retailer for further action as per directive.’
Teletalk managing director could not be reached for comment despite several attempts.
Mobile operators, however, blamed the retailers for the violation of the BTRC law and said a lack of policy support was the reason for the misconduct.
After retailers submit documents, the mobile companies can only accept those as they do not have access to the NID database, they said.
‘We do not have access to the NID database. So, we can not verify the documents. If the retailers do any wrong, we should not be held liable for that,’ a senior official of a mobile phone company told New Age.
The retailers, however, said that the phone companies were well aware of the fact and approved the practice considering higher sales of SIMs.
‘For smooth business we have to do this and the mobile phone companies are also informed about the practice. They keep mum as they are getting higher sales of their SIM cards,’ said Ratan, a retailer based at Maghbazar.
BTRC officials, however, said that the operators would also be responsible for misdeeds of the retailers.
‘The law says mobile companies will be liable if their retailers are found involved in such activities and it is hard to believe that mobile companies are not aware of such false registration,’ a senior BTRC official told New Age on Thursday.
Asked, telecom secretary Abubaker Siddiqi said selling SIM cards in this way is a violation of law.
‘This is a violation of law and the BTRC should look into the matter with due importance. We have already started the process to allow the mobile companies access to the NID database. It will ease the problem to some extent,’ he told New Age on Thursday.
As per the BTRC directive, an intended subscriber will personally provide the copy of NID, photograph and specimen signature to the retailer and a representative of the mobile company concerned will collect the softcopy of the form from the retailer.
The connection will be activated if all data match with each other, said the BTRC directive.
‘SIM cards with false registration are used by most of the criminals. Because of this, we have faced problems in tracking them many times,’ RAB legal and media wing director ATM Habibur Rahman told New Age on Thursday.

-With New Age input

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