By Femi Adekoya:
Wary of the intrigues being played by mobile phone dealers in the country, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), yesterday unveiled plans by the agency and other stakeholders in the telecommunications industry to initiate a system that would remotely reject counterfeit and sub-standard mobile phones when such phones are activated.
According to the SON, the move is part of measures to address concerns raised by consumers on the influx of sub-standard mobile phones in the market and on the infringement of intellectual properties of established mobile phone brands.
The initiative is coming on the heels of the recent seizure and reforms being undertaken by SON to sanitise mobile phone markets in Nigeria.
The new reforms would also see manufacturers and authorized dealers of mobile phones taking responsibility of differentiating their brands through new procedures to be released by the SON as well as the enforcement of the establishment of after-sales service centres in the business environment.
Indeed, the agency noted that the rising poverty level and low purchasing power on the part of consumers remain responsible for the growing merchandise in sub-standards phones.
Director-General, SON, Dr. Joesph Odumodu, during a stakeholders' forum with phone brand owners tagged "Boosting consumers confidence in Nigeria's mobile phone markets explained that the agency is in collaboration with the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) and mobile telecommunications service providers to ensure that International Mobile Station Equipment Identity (IMEI) and other marks of quality be used as the yardstick for the identification of counterfeit and sub-standard phones.
Under the arrangement, any mobile phone that falls short of the minimum standards criteria would become ineffective as the mobile phone services will become inoperable on such phones.
He added that SON would also conduct and publish the list of registered phone brand owners in the country; mandate every phone brand owners to have coded identity marks for traceability and proper user guide; monitor compliance on such measures and give deadlines for the enforcement of the reforms.
He noted that SON would set up a monitoring scheme and desk across all entries for which such products have been known for while enforcement of regulations would inform seizures, evacuation and destruction of phones that fall short of the requirement.
He said: "we will ensure that those products that have not been able to provide additional features be removed. Within the next one week, we will be installing a new set of equipment in SON to measure radiation levels not just for the phones but for the components too.
"This meeting is part of our quest to rid the markets of fake and sub-standard phones and accessories which have in recent times turned to a worrisome and disturbing level. Indeed, the Federal Government has become increasingly concerned over the high incidence of fake and sub-standard phones in the markets across the country as well as the potential health and safety implications on the economy of the country.
"We are not talking about IMEI numbers, but some additional features that we would use to identify the real products from the fake ones. It will surprise you that there are about 13 million sub-standard phones in the country, which further increases exposure risks of consumers to dangerous metals and harmful elements that are associated with such products.
"It is the responsibility of all brand owners to monitor and protect their products from the factories (manufacturers) until they get to the end-users. Regrettably, we have since discovered a common trend in the market. Phones are incessantly "cloned" or in local parlance, "copied" by fakers or undesirable elements. This situation remains unacceptable to Government and all hands must be on deck to stamp out the practice completely".
He added that poverty and low purchasing power on the part of consumers might also be responsible for the growing merchandise in sub-standards phones.
"Most times, consumers are constrained by ignorance, poverty and inability to detect counterfeit products. They go ahead to purchase fake products that may be rather harmful to them. Consumers opt for substandard or counterfeit mobile phones because they are cheap and look like the originals. This trend cannot be allowed to continue", he added.
A representative of CPC, Mrs. Umego Adaora, who represented the Director General, Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Mrs. Dupe Atoki, advised that consumers must always insist on the right products maintaining that, the body is empowered to cause offenders to replace bad products with good ones.
"Brand owners should conduct business responsibly by looking at the moral issues in business rather than the profit-making motives. We are ready to partner with SON to address this ugly trend and ensure consumers enjoy speedy redress on this issue", she added.
Some of the mobile phone brand owners commended the SON for the move to sanitise the market noting that counterfeit products were already forcing good brands out of the market as well as enjoying the premium such brands enjoy.
Co-Founder, SOLO Phones, Dolapo Ajayi called for a strengthened collaboration of regulatory agencies to curb the menace of substandard products in the country.
A representative of Samsung products, Adetola Oni, stated that the menace plaguing the phone market is worrisome pointing out that, Samsung will go all the way to partner SON and other regulatory agencies to address the issue.
Also, President, Phone and Allied Products Dealers Association (PAPDA) of Computer Village Ikeja, Ikye Onwe expressed readiness of the group to partner with the agencies to address the issues.