Failing to report a lost or stolen cellular phone or SIM cards; not recording if you give your cell or SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) to someone, or plain not registering your contact information, such as home address, if you own a cell or SIM could have some serious repercussions soon.
The penalty is a fine of $25,000, or a lengthy jail term.
This will all become reality when the Telecommunications (Amendment) Bill, which was approved in the National Assembly, is assented to by the President.
Presented by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, the Bill was touted as seeking to regulate and properly account for the thousands of cellular phones and SIMs where ownership is difficult to trace.
He noted that there were currently some 600,000 cellular phones in use, as against the 100,000 landlines that are registered.
It was pointed out during the debates that, apart from the regulatory aspect of the Bill, it seeks to be an effective tool in the investigation of crime.
The legislation compels telecommunication operators as well as cell phone and SIM cards retailers to collect and store information, such as ID and addresses, at its own cost.
Leader of the main opposition party, PNCR, Robert Corbin, told the House that the Bill in isolation would not pose a difficulty in an orderly society, given that the cell phone and SIM cards are just an advance in technology and registering them properly is required.
In that regard, he supported the Bill. He, however, pointed out that the Bill in the context of the Interception of Communication Bill was part of the architecture that seems to support the machinery of a repressive State.
The Alliance For Change (AFC), however, shared a different view on the proposed amendments to the principal Act.
According to Trotman, the legislation firstly asks the retailers of cell phones and SIM cards, within 12 months of the assenting of the legislation, that the 600,000 cell phones and possible higher figure of SIMs in use be properly registered at the expense of the retailer.
Failing to so do would result in a severe penalty. But, according to Trotman, it was impossible for the companies to fully comply with the legislation in the stipulated time.
This, he said, was not because they would refuse to, but because they lacked the capacity. They would be criminalised.
He failed in a bid by way of an amendment to have the minister change the amendment from ‘failing’ to comply, with ‘refusing’ to comply.
Trotman also questioned how the typical youth of today will be able to purchase a phone with no ID or proof of address.
He also noted that the culture of youth was such that the legislation would unnecessarily criminalise the youth because of the requirements of having to register each time they lend their phones for extended periods, or exchange their phones.
Trotman also questioned whatever happened to the ‘Super database’ that was announced recently, and pointed to the fact that this piece of legislation that was eventually approved was an ominous sign of heading towards the phenomenon of police state.
He defended his statement by pointing to the other Bill that was passed in the House last evening to legalise wiretapping of phones and the interception of mail and messages, among others.
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