Ban on fake phones freezes business at Kariakoo

27Feb 2016
Aisia Rweyemamu
The Guardian
Ban on fake phones freezes business at Kariakoo

The communications regulatory authority’s notice to switch off all counterfeit phones by mid June, has kept cell-phone traders feeling the pinch as customers shrug off pleas to buy what they believe is a useless commodity.

MOBILE PHONE

The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) has recently announced it would remote control all counterfeit mobile into an automatic switch-off regime come June 17, bringing shock waves among traders in whose stocks are more counterfeits than genuine products.

A random survey at Kariakoo in Dar es Salaam, the nation’s major shopping centre, revealed traders complaining of lack of customers, saying they were scared of falling into the trap of buying fake devices in the absence of mechanism to make a distinction between fake and the real ones.

But the Fair Competition Commission (FCC) spokesperson Frank Mdimi said they would work hand in gloves with the nation’s cell-phone brand owners for an identification mechanism.

Eliakimu Urio, a mobile phone trader said the number of customers had drastically skewed down to hardly10 per day from the daily average of 130 about a month ago prior the market-hostile announcement.

Urio believed that TCRA’s move would not be only hostile to traders, but also to the clientele which is too poor to afford the cost of genuine phones.

“The business is facing the biggest challenge and we are counting huge loses as customers take TCRA notice on switching off fake phones ever seriously,” he said.

“Despite the fact that fake phones used to attract a big number of customers due to their affordable prices, I decided to take them off the shelves… but prices of the genuine phones keep the customers away,” he said.

Cloud Sanga, another Kariakoo trader had already incurred Sh23m loss this week, as he had not sold even a single phone since January.

It was a stock of fake phones he had been tempted to import following the-then attractive local market for the counterfeit devices, citing an example of a well marketed counterfeit Samsung phone that would fetch him quick Sh250,000 against the genuine similar trade mark running as high as Sh850,000 for selective customers.

Citing cell-phone market crisis ahead, Sanga said the market would become the world of a few well-to-do owners of Smartphones, come June as only a few people would afford prices of the genuine commodity.

But phone trader Elibariki Mchau resorted to appealing TCRA for extension of the deadline to give him more time to sell the counterfeit commodity still in store, though forsaken by the equally skeptic customers.

He admittedly said most traders would incur big losses if the regulators would stick to their guns with the deadline, as stores at Kariakoo were abundant with stockpiles of fake phones, though some traders had been gradually replacing the old with the new genuine commodity on their shelves.

TCRA estimates that at least 40 per cent of mobile phones in the country are counterfeit. The regulatory is indeed determined to ensure that the market is free of fake devices and customers can only be able to buy quality products worth their money.

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