The Communications Authority of Kenya has rolled out a new mobile messaging service to aid Kenyans to be able to tell if a mobile phone they own/are using or they are about to purchase is genuine or one of the many counterfeits in the market.
Using the service is very easy. One only needs to note their mobile phone’s unique identifier, in this case, the IMEI number, and then send it to the dedicated short code then wait for a response.
The IMEI number of a mobile phone can be obtained in a number of ways:
- Checking the phone’s box
- Dialling *#06#, the universal IMEI callup function
Whichever method one uses to obtain the IMEI (the Communications Authority, in its statement, advises the use of the universal IMEI callup function, to be on the safe side), the next step is to create a new SMS, input it and then send it to the number 1555.
The service is free.
“You will receive a message from the Authority displaying details of the mobile phone, including the make and model,” the CA further advises.
Should the details contained in the received message from the industry regulator not match the physical attributes of the device as one can see then the mobile phone in question may not be genuine.
Like we highlighted in our podcast a while back, it is also important to note the Communications Authority’s definition of “genuine” and genuineness. In this case, the process is reliant on the regulator’s database since devices have to be type-approved before being availed in the market and the regulator maintains such a database.
Should a device have been smuggled into the country and sold through unofficial channels (to dodge tax authorities), the results, when the above process is used, may not be positive. That does not necessarily mean that the device in question is fake or counterfeit, in the broad sense of the term. Just that since the industry regulator is unaware of its type and presence, it cannot guarantee quality.
Even then, as is evident by just walking into random phone outlets in any major town in Kenya, fake phones that mostly go for a fraction of what the real thing costs (some, cost just as much, and thrive on duping buyers who don’t know any better), remain a big problem in the country and this service will come in handy to those who are trying to get the real thing.
Consumer electronics brands such as Samsung have for long used their own local databases to verify local mobile phone (and other devices) purchases and activate and enforce warranties using mobile messaging services.
Broadly speaking, the concept is far from new for Kenyans as, beyond consumer electronics, school textbooks, gas cylinders and drugs have, over the years, also been able to be verified using similar means.