SIM Registrations: agents charge to defray phone, data cost

Some executives of telecom’ agents in the ongoing SIM Registration exercise are arguing that some agents are charging customers for the services in order to defray the cost of mobile handsets being used for the exercise.

This defense comes after a recent warning from the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunication (GCT) to registration agents who are charging customers for the SIM re-registration.

GCT said in their statement that this exercise is absolutely free because the government is funding it hence charging a customer makes it a fraudulent and illegal act and asked agents to desist from it or risk facing the law.

The Chamber, therefore, asked customers being charged by any agent to report them to the nearest police station or their respective telecom operators.

After the release of the Chamber’s statement, some Ghanaians took to Facebook to claim that agents charge to defray the cost of data. Adding that the charge is usually between GHS 3 to GHS 5.

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An interview with two executives of the telecos’ agents said some agents buy their own phones and the telecos only provides access to the SIM registration. 

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Such agents, therefore, felt the need to charge customers a fee to make up for the cost of the phone bought.

It can be recalled that when MTN first made an announcement about the SIM re-registration process, they explained that the biometric data collection would need a special type of mobile application by an agent of the National Communications Authority and even that it is compatible with a particular mobile handset and not just anyone.

For MTN they made it clear that even though they have quite a number of agents across the country, they could only afford the handset for some and not all of them.

A Greater-Accra Regional executive of the Mobile Money Agent Association of Ghana (MMAAG), George Agyare told the media 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.

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“The type of phone they are asking me to buy costs not less than 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 said 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 was quick to add 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.”

She said they had made several attempts to MTN for reimbursement and access but the giant teleco has not included any of her members in the exercise. 

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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 the 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.

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