Many Ugandans will continue to fall victim to cheap fake phones and accessories primarily from China, which flooded the Ugandan market. Apparently, the counterfeiters are thriving thanks to the weak counterfeit laws in the country. Uganda is reported to have the highest number of substandard and fake mobile phones in the region.
Haruna Kalema, importer of mobile phones from Dubai, says unless the vendor provides a warranty from the manufacturer and the original box, the phone is likely to be a fake. According to Dennis Chebet of Simba Telecom, recognition of fake phones necessitates sifting. "Phone A will give you copyright, the manufacturer, date where the phone was manufactured and a serial number. It should also show the storage capacity (RAM) such as some Nokia phones have 813 MB but a fake will give you confusing numbers, "he said, adding that you can dial * # 0000 # for a Nokia phone and it will give you the serial number of the phone and the copyright.
While some people knowingly buy fake phones because they are cheaper, the other unsuspecting customers just fall victim to the tricks of counterfeiting. According to Moses Bbosa, a phone vendor in Wilson Street, many people will not notice that the phones labeled as 'Sum Sang' (instead of 'Sam Sung') Sony Ericsson, Nokia and Samsvng are fakes .
The Uganda Communication Commission (UCC), the regulator of the sector, points to weak laws as major problems. "That needs to be addressed," says Fred Otunnu, the manager for the Communications and Consumer Affairs, adding that the body is aware of the existence of fake phones in the market "but can not do much about it."
UCC is considering concluding a memorandum of understanding with an authorized agency in China and other countries to validate the product prior to export to Uganda. However, according to Otunnu, it is still only a "proposal." "It is still a proposal that calls for multi-agency partnership with UCC, Uganda Revenue Authority and UNBS among others. The issue of counterfeits is receiving more attention in recent years as it denies the government's tax revenue, hurt the brand equity, and harms consumers and the environment. In response to complaints from manufacturers about the recent vice Uganda Private Sector Foundation (PSFU) trade exhibition in Lugogo, Ben Manyindo, Uganda National Bureau of standards (UNBS) acting executive director, advised by the manufacturer on the package and label their brands as well as penalize fake products. Apparently, UNBS does not have the power to stop fake products. Their mandate is to protect the public from substandard or poor quality products. As the 'fake' products meet the required standards, UNBS can not stop them from going to market.