Two executives of telcos’ agents involved in the ongoing SIM Registration exercise have told Techgh24 that some of their members are forced to charge customers for the service to defray the cost of the mobile handsets they use for it.
This comes on the back to the recent warning by the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications (GCT) to agents who charge customers for SIM Registration.
The Chamber in a statement said SIM registration is “absolutely free” because it is funded by government of telcos, adding that charging customers for SIM registration is “fraudulent” and “illegal” and warned agents doing so to quit or risk facing the law.
It then urged customers who have been charged by any agent for SIM registration to report such agents to the nearest police station or to the respective telecom operator.
Following the publication of the Chamber’s statement, some Ghanaians made a Facebook post claiming the agents charge to defray the cost of data. Some also commented that they charge between GHS3 to GHS5.
Techgh24 therefore went further to speak with two executives of telcos’ agents and both of them stated that some agents buy their own mobile phones and telcos only give them access to do SIM registration.
The agents said they therefore felt the need to charge customers a small fee to defray the cost of the mobile phone.
It would be recalled that when MTN first told journalists about the SIM registration process, they explained that the biometric data collection aspect of the process require the use of a specially-made mobile application by an agent of the National Communications Authority (NCA), which is only compatible with particular mobile handsets and not all.
MTN clearly stated that it has many agents across the country but can only afford to acquire the specific mobile handsets for some of them and not all.
A Greater-Accra Regional executive of the Mobile Money Agent Association of Ghana (MMAAG), George Agyare told Techgh24 that he personally called AirtelTigo and requested for access to do SIM registration and he was told to go purchase his own phone and come for the access.
“The type of phone they are asking me to buy costs not less that GHS1,500 – and I am supposed to use it to register customers for the telcos and yet they are not willing to get me the device for the work.
“So I can understand why some agents are charging because they need to offset the cost of the mobile phone they purchase for the service,” he said.
President of the Mobile Money Advocacy Group of Ghana (MOMAG), Maame Nyarkoa Boatey-Addo also told Techgh24 she was aware some agents buy their own handsets for the SIM registration so she believes they charge to defray the cost of the handset.
She then noted that since the process started it is only Vodafone that has provided devices and granted access to some of her members to do SIM registration and “Vodafone actually pays them every month to defray their data cost.”
According to her they have made several representations to MTN in particular, for access, but MTN has not yet included any of her members in the exercise.
Maame Nyarkoa Boatey-Addo is worried that whereas Vodafone registration centers are virtually empty, people keep queuing at MTN registration centers but MTN has still not roped in her members to help in the registration of its customers.
She is also calling on government and the telcos to properly define what they mean by “free” because if the agents invest their own money to buy handsets or data, they cannot be expected to use it for free.
“So if there is a package in terms of handsets and data for agents we need to be told the truth and be brought on board properly,” she said.