Some subscriber identity module (SIM) card registration agents for mobile phone network providers TNM and Airtel are demanding money from registrants in the ongoing SIM card registration exercise set to end on September 30.
Spot-checks on Saturday in some districts revealed that some TNM and Airtel agents were demanding between K200 and K300 from subscribers for registration.
To substantiate the vice in Mulanje, Luchenza and Thyolo Boma, this reporter tried to register but agents for both mobile phone service providers demanded K200 and K300 in Mulanje and Luchenza, respectively, which they received before registering the number.
Asked why they were charging for the exercise which is supposed to be free of charge, one of the agents at Mulanje Bus Depot claimed that money is used to charge their phones.
“We spend a lot of money to charge phones and this is a tiresome assignment,” said the agent.
In an interview yesterday, Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) communications manager Clara Mwafulirwa said the authority is aware that some mobile network service provider agents have introduced fees on the registration exercise.
She said the vice is rampant in remote areas where agents take advantage of ignorance of the rural masses.
Said Mwafulirwa: “We have heard that agents are taking advantage of people in rural areas by demanding money for them to be registered. But we are sensitising people not to give money when asked to upon registration.”
She said cases of agents demanding money from subscribers were common in the early stages of the exercise but the authority had sensitised the masses.
Both TNM and Airtel could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Asked whether demanding money from subscribers is a crime, police national spokesperson James Kadadzera refused to comment, saying Macra is better-placed to comment.
According to Macra, as of August 21, 3.5 million subscribers registered—1.9 million for TNM and 1.6 million for Airtel, representing 47.9 percent out of the 7.3 million SIM cards in use.
The mandatory SIM card registration is provided for, under Section 92 of the Communications Act which Parliament passed in 2016.
The exercise is expected to end next Sunday. Last week, Macra announced that subscribers found using unregistered SIM cards after the closing date will risk paying K5 million.