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By 7 July 2011 | Categories: news

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The deadline for South African mobile users to register their SIM cards under the Regulation of Interception of Communication Act (RICA) passed last week without too many headaches.

According to TimesLIve however, some cellphone retailers and users have been attempting to subvert the new law, buying SIM cards in bulk and not registering them properly.

The new law states that every cellphone SIM card has to be tied to an individual, just like your ID book or driver's license. Therefore when purchasing a new SIM card users have to provide their name, ID number and proof of residence to their service providers.

However the government has received reports that certain retailers have been buying SIM cards in bulk and reselling them without properly recording RICA details, and that private users had been purchasing multiple SIM cards on their names, and then distributing them to friends and family.

Deputy Justice Minister André Nel stated at a press conference in Pretoria yesterday that this conduct amounted to a breach of the law. “They undermine the legislation and jeopardise its aim and objectives. The SIM cards in question can be traced back to them and they have to face the consequences of their actions,” he said.

These consequences can be quite severe, ranging from a R60 000 fine or 12 months in prison for private citizens, and going up to a fine of R100 000 for operators not complying with the new law.

The aim of RICA at the end of the day is to help reduce South Africa's rampant crime rate, with police utilising the law to track down suspects based on call and SMS records.

Overall the sometimes controversial law has passed into effect without much disruption, with Cell C reporting that 99.9% of its contract, and 97% of prepaid customers had registered their SIM cards. MTN reported similar numbers of 99% and 97% respectively, while Vodacom said 98.9% of contract and 95% of its prepaid customers had also complied with the law.

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