Confusion surrounds RICA


The Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (RICA) has many retailers baffled about its requirements.

An ITWeb investigation over the last week revealed several retail outlets in the greater Johannesburg area have little or no idea what the new regulations entail. Many also have no access to registration technologies promised by the mobile operators.

The registration process was formally introduced at the beginning of July, requiring all the operators to register prepaid customers and contract customers. Mobile operators and retailers should be in the process of rolling out a Web-based application on point-of-sale terminals to register new customers.

Registration requires that people present their full names and surname, a green bar code identification document, or a temporary ID or a passport, to a registration official or in-store when buying a SIM card.

In addition, proof of residence must be provided through any document that includes their name and residential address, such as a bank statement, municipal rates, or retail account. Existing prepaid and contract customers still have 15 months to register.

However, spot checks around Johannesburg indicated several retail employees are still uninformed about how the new law works and others didn’t even know it existed.

Additionally, operators are supposed to have by now flushed out any old SIM cards and replaced them with numberless SIMs. The numberless SIM card is to ensure all new prepaid SIMs are registered with the proper details before being allowed onto a mobile network.

The actual training of RICA agents for each point of SIM or airtime sale is supposed to rest with both the operators and the retailers. After discovering the ignorance of retail employees about RICA, ITWeb tested the other processes that are meant to be in place by now.

ITWeb purchased a SIM card from Woolworths, in Sydenham, north Johannesburg, along with several other items. The MTN card was placed on display near the tills, next to cards from other operators. Once purchased, the card was inserted into a cellphone, and a number was sent to the handset, which indicated it was active on the network with full signal strength. No registration was required.

ITWeb also bought a second SIM from MTN that required a registration process to activate, from Pick n Pay, in Craighall Park.

A Virgin SIM card was purchased at the counter in the Norwood Spar franchise, which was a numbered SIM and worked immediately on the Virgin network.

A Cell C card was bought at the Balfour Park Checkers, after being found hanging next to the till, and a number was sent to the phone without any need to register after the SIM was inserted.

At 7-Eleven, in Rivonia, the clerk informed ITWeb that the numbered Vodacom SIM needed to be registered. However, after the card was inserted into a phone, a call was placed to voicemail with no registration having taken place.

However, Woolworths and Clicks in Rivonia declined to allow us to buy a SIM without first producing the required documentation.

Several retailers seem not to want to stock prepaid SIMs, since Pick n Pay, in Blairgowrie, as well as the Spar, in Linden, did not stock any cards and did not even know what RICA was. Pick n Pay, in Rivonia, is also not stocking SIMs at the moment.

All the mobile operator-branded stores knew the process well and were advising all customers to register their SIMs.

Spar CEO Wayne Hook says the company is still developing software that will be positioned at the point-of-sale to register cards. He notes that cards can be registered through other means, such as at other stores and through WAP-enabled cellphones.

However, at the start of the RICA implementation, the mobile operators indicated they had already developed the registration terminals and software, which is to be distributed by a third-party company.

None of the other retailers contacted by ITWeb had responded to our queries by the time of publication. Cell C indicated it is looking at the questions posed by ITWeb, while none of the other operators had responded at the time of publication.