RICA rethink urged while DoC asks South Africans to register SIMs

ISPA urged the DoJ to take a fresh look at RICA while the DoC urged South Africans to register their SIM cards.

In separate press statements sent out today the Internet Service Providers’ Association of South Africa (ISPA) urged the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ) to re-examine sections of RICA, while the Department of Commuincations (DoC) urged mobile subscribers to register their SIMs.

The Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provisions of Communication-related Information Act, commonly known as RICA, requires (among other things) that cellular subscribers register their Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) at their mobile service provider with proof of identity and residence.

The deadline for registration is 30 June 2011 and mobile operators will have to cut off any subscriber not registered unless another extension is given.

RICA also applies to Internet Service Providers (ISPs), which ISPA explained requires ISPs to perform similar identity verification as mobile network operators.

Ant Brooks - General Manager of the Internet Service Provider Association (ISPA)
Ant Brooks - ISPA General Manager

Ant Brooks, general manager of ISPA, said that this places an enormous administrative and financial burden on ISPs, many of which don’t have retail outlets and sign up most of their customers electronically or telephonically.

Brooks said that ISPA members are supportive of the overall goals of RICA and are eager to work with the DoJ so that RICA can be amended to both serve the purpose of the Act as well as make compliance possible for ISPs.

The full release from ISPA is below, followed by the Department of Communications press statement.

The Internet Service Providers’ Association of South Africa (ISPA) urges indications to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJ) to take a fresh look at the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provisions of Communication-related Information Act, commonly referred to as RICA.

The DOJ has previously recognised the need to relook at section 39 of the Act. This section of RICA requires ISPs to record certain personal information of their customers and then to verify such information and the identity of the customer, before activating any electronic communication services, such as Internet services.

Most South Africans with mobile phones will have already gone through the above process with their mobile network provider under section 40 of RICA.

“In its present form, the section places the near impossible burden of physically verifying the details and identity of all customers of the ISP,” said Ant Brooks, General Manager of ISPA.

“Given that they sell a virtual product and sign up most of their existing customers electronically (either telephonically or over the Internet), this places an enormous administrative and financial burden on ISPs,” he added. “Many ISPs do not have retail outlets, making it almost impossible for them to verify the identity of their customers.”

“ISPs therefore face the enormous challenge of appointing agents or setting up branch offices to verify new customers,” said Brooks. “In order to be compliant with RICA as it currently stands, a customer needs to appear physically in front of an ISP’s representative with his or her ID document, proof of address and certified copies of both of these (to be retained indefinitely by the ISP) before an account can be activated.”

In addition to the inconvenience this process would cause for ISPs and customers, it could have the unintended effect of driving up Internet access costs. The costs associated with ISP customer registration could even drive smaller ISPs out of business as they will not be able to compete with bigger competitors with national retail outlets.

ISPA has proposed that ISPs be allowed to verify documents in electronic format using the framework set out in the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act of 2002. “We are hopeful that the DOJ will give this proposal serious consideration,” said Brooks.

He concluded: “Our members are supportive of the overall goals of RICA and eager to work with the DOJ in order to ensure that the Act is amended in a manner that will both serve the purpose of the Act as well as make compliance possible. We do believe that the goals of RICA can be achieved more efficiently through an alternative verification process. ISPA has made various proposals to the DOJ and hopes that the DOJ will take our feedback on Section 39 into account. We look forward to news of possible changes to this section of RICA.”

The full DoC press release follows.

The Department of Communications appeals to all South African citizens to register their SIM cards whether they are cellular, data or other SIM cards used for mobile devices.

The Regulation of Interception of Communications Act (RICA) provides for the lawful interception of communications, such as voice and data conversations between persons including phone calls, emails and postal services. This Act is in the interest of the individual’s right to privacy and can only be done after authorisation by a judge who is specially designated to carry out this role or function.  RICA is applicable to both prepaid and contract subscribers and it is obligatory for all cellphone and other data users to comply.

The Department of Communications calls for all SIM card users to go to their mobile service providers with their proof of residence and Identity Documents (IDs) before or on 30 June 2011 for registration.

“Failure to comply with the deadline will result in SIMs being locked. Those who have not registered will not be able to make or receive calls and will not be able to send SMSes or use data,” states the Deputy Minister of Communications, Mr Obed Bapela.

Latest news

Partner Content

Show comments

Recommended

Share this article
RICA rethink urged while DoC asks South Africans to register SIMs