The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) has taken a firm stance against a class action lawsuit aimed at challenging the SIM card registration process, asserting that the matter is premature and should be handled by the regulator.
The case, brought forward by senior counsel Wilfred Nderitu and Charles Kanjama, centres on Safaricom's data privacy statement, specifically Clause 3.2.1, which allows the telecoms operator to collect sensitive financial information from mobile phone users.
In a response to the petition filed by the two lawyers, CA argued that disputes related to SIM card registration should be addressed through the regulatory framework, rather than through the High Court.
The lawyers had sought the removal of Clause 3.2.1, which permits Safaricom to "collect and store information including credit or debit card information, information on bank account numbers, Swift codes or other banking information."
According to the Kenya Information and Communications (Dispute Resolution) Regulations 2010, CA possesses the authority to resolve disputes between consumers and licensees, including cases involving telecom service providers like Safaricom.
CA emphasized this regulatory power, stating, "The claim herein is premature and should be dismissed with costs."
Clause 3.2.1, which lies within a 58-page document outlining the terms and conditions of last year's SIM card registration update, has raised concerns among subscribers.
The lawyers argue that Safaricom's dominant position in the Kenyan mobile market leaves subscribers with little choice but to accept the clause, as declining to agree to the SIM card registration rules may result in a loss of access to essential services.
Nderitu, speaking in an affidavit filed in court, expressed their concerns.
"As such, the stringent mechanisms and crafty ways of collecting data without assurance of data security are precipitated by the thought that its clients have no option but to opt-in for them to continue enjoying the products and services that it offers," they stated.
The case has allowed subscribers who are aggrieved by the data collection requirement to join in a class action suit, further intensifying the debate surrounding the protection of user data and privacy in the telecommunications sector.
As the legal battle unfolds, the Kenyan public remains keenly interested in the outcome, with the Communications Authority of Kenya defending its regulatory role and the lawyers continuing to assert that subscribers' data privacy rights must be upheld in the face of industry practices.
The question of how this delicate balance between consumer protection and service provider interests will be resolved remains at the forefront of this ongoing legal dispute.