‘Companies activating prepaid phone connections without verifying identity of individual'

Thanks to stiff competition between various cellular services providers, rules concerning identification of SIM card user are being thrown to the wind, alleged a distributors association here recently.

“Without properly verifying the identity of an individual, companies are activating prepaid phone connections just to increase their subscriber count,” said Ch. Krishna, president, Federation of Andhra Pradesh Consumer Products Distributors Associations.

He maintained that although the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and Department of Telecom (DoT) guidelines require service providers to engage third parties for verification of credentials of prepaid connection applicants, companies are burdening the distributors and retailers with the work.

As a result, whenever there is any criminal incident involving mobile phones, distributors and retailers are also being picked up by the police as parties to the crime. About 20 such cases have been booked across the State so far.

“Why should we be picked up when it is the responsibility of the company to verify the identity of individuals? It is up to the company whether to accept or reject a connection. We are just middlemen. We just distribute their SIM cards and handover documents to the company,” Mr. Krishna explained.

In contrast, it was pointed out, companies follow stringent verification procedures for post paid connections by engaging an authorised third party. “This is because their revenue against the usage should be guaranteed.”

With distributors paying huge amounts to the cellular companies towards deposits, they have no choice but to comply with the demands of the companies, the Federation said. “When we question them they blackmail us saying they would give the business to another party,” G. Srinivas, secretary of the federation said.

“It is a very fast moving business. Each day a business of about Rs.4 lakh is transacted by a big distributor,” he said pegging the number of distributors across the State at 7,000.

The federation found rural distributors more gullible as they do not even read the agreement carefully. “Everyone just looks at the size of the business. They do not realise it is about providing services and it concerns security. The companies also do not educate them on the legal implications,” Mr. Krishna pointed out.

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