RICA deadline to be extended

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The deadline for the registration of cellphone SIM cards will be extended to 11 June next year, from the original cut-off date of 31 December, if Parliament passes an amendment to the law this year.

In a surprise move, Parliament is expected to pass an amendment to RICA, pushing the SIM registration deadline to 11 June.

According to a Government Gazette notice, published this week, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development says the minister intends introducing the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-related Information Amendment Bill, 2010, in the National Assembly shortly, ITWeb reports.

The intention is to amend the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-related Information Act (RICA), 2002, so as to extend the period within which mobile subscribers’ information must be recorded and stored.

Although the original Act was passed in 2002, the section for the registration of SIM cards was only passed by Parliament in 2007, with the intention that registration begins in June 2009 and ends within 18 months.

The Parliamentary hearings in 2006 were controversial, with some heated debates taking place between legislators, cellular network operators and law enforcement agencies. The network operators complained about the cost and the impact on the industry, while the law enforcement agencies emphasised mobile phones were a prime instrument for criminal activity.

RICA’s proposed amendment flies in the face of earlier announcements that the deadline would not be extended.

Relief

Arthur Goldstuck, MD of research firm World Wide Worx, says the extension would be welcomed by the industry. He notes that the original deadline of the end of this year was always seen as too tight.

He says that, according to his latest research, only 10% of the 50 million SIM cards in SA still had to be registered, but that most of them were in rural areas.

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“The intention of the law was always to formalise those who had SIM cards and never to cut off anyone’s connectivity,” Goldstuck points out.

Reaction from two of the four network operators was one of relief.
“We are encouraged by today’s developments and really appreciate the constructive engagement that we’ve had on extending the RICA deadline,” says Karel Pienaar, MD of MTN SA.
“MTN has put huge effort into educating our customers on the RICA process, encouraging them to register and making that registration process as convenient as possible – and we’ll continue to do everything we can to ensure that customers are not cut off.”

Portia Maurice, Vodacom’s chief officer for corporate affairs, says: “We are encouraged by today’s developments and really appreciate the constructive engagement that we’ve had on extending the RICA deadline.”



She says Vodacom has put huge effort into educating its customers on the RICA process, encouraging them to register and making the registration process as convenient as possible. “And we’ll continue to do everything we can to ensure that customers are not cut off.”