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Counterfeit Mobile Phones FAQs

1.    What is a counterfeit phone?
A counterfeit phone is an imitation of a phone that is marketed and sold under the name of an authentic brand.

2.    Why is UCC concerned about counterfeit phones?
Counterfeit phones congest communication networks thereby affecting the quality of service to consumers. UCC is mandated to protect consumers, and as a government agency is partly charged with discouraging usage of counterfeit equipment.

3.    How can I tell that a phone is counterfeit?
There are several ways to check if a phone is counterfeit:
a)    Cross check the IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) of the mobile phone against the database of legitimate mobile devices that is managed by the GSMA (Global System for Mobile Association). Read the characteristics and features of the legitimate phone of that model, and compare those with the phone you intend to buy or the one that you are using. The true features of a genuine brand can be found on its manufacturer¡¯s official  website.
b)    If a mobile phone is being sold without a warranty,  most likely it is a counterfeit phone. However, sellers of counterfeit phones in Uganda sometimes also give ¡®warranty¡¯ as a way to confuse the buyer of the phone into thinking that it is genuine. The warranty period in this case is usually very short, usually one (1) to three (3) months only.

4.    What is an IMEI?
IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) is a number that is assigned to each mobile phone that is manufactured in accordance with internationally agreed safety and quality requirements. It may be considered as the serial number of the mobile phone.  

5.    How can I check for the IMEI of a phone?
To check for the IMEI of a phone, you can:
a)    Remove the battery and you will find the IMEI written on the phone body;
b)    Dial *#06# and the IMEI will automatically be displayed on the phone. The phone does not need to have a SIM card to be able to do this. This can be done even before a SIM card is inserted in the phone.

6.    Can two different mobile phone handsets have the same IMEI?
No. Each legitimate phone has a unique IMEI. In case you find two phones  have the same IMEI, it means one or both  phones are  counterfeit. Use other means of establishing which one is legitimate by looking for the model number, the manufacturer and other characteristics of the phone.

7.    How can I check for the model number of a phone?
Remove the battery and you will find the model of the phone written in the exposed compartment.

8.    How can I check for the manufacturer of my phone?
The name of the manufacturer of a phone is usually inscribed on the face of the phone. For more certainty, remove the battery and you will find the name of manufacturer inscribed within the exposed compartment.

9.    Do counterfeit mobile phones have IMEIs?
Counterfeit phones usually have fake "IMEIs¡± because the manufacturers of these phones try to make them look as genuine as possible. The IMEIs given to these phones by their manufacturers are usually not reflected in the GSMA IMEI database. However, sometimes, the manufacturers copy a genuine GSMA IMEI and assign it to their counterfeit phones. It is therefore important to consider the IMEI as well as the physical characteristics of the phone when checking for legitimacy.

10.  Where can I check whether the IMEI of my phone belongs to a genuine phone?
a)    Visit the UCC website application at www.ucc.co.ug, under "verify IMEI¡±. Follow the instructions therein.
b)    Send an SMS containing your phone¡¯s IMEI to the short code 8883. You will receive a response that will answer your query and also provide more information on the type of phone to which the IMEI belongs.

11.  What information will I receive when I query my IMEI by SMS or on the UCC website application?
a)    Whether or not the IMEI you have submitted is legitimate;
b)    The manufacturer of the phone to which the IMEI belongs;
c)    The model number of the phone to which the IMEI belongs.

12.  When I check for the IMEI of a dual SIM phone, I get 2 (two) numbers. Which one of them is the correct one?
Both numbers are correct. Use either of the numbers to check for legitimacy of the IMEI. The response will also tell you that the phone is "dual SIM¡±.

13.  What are the immediately visible differences between a counterfeit phone and a genuine phone?
Some of the differences are:
a)    The logos of the manufacturer may be temporary and can therefore be rubbed off;
b)    The name of the phone may be misspelt.
c)    The phone may be extremely light in weight;
d)    The colour of the phone may not be among the colours that were produced by the manufacturer for that model of mobile phone, and;
e)    The phone may have features that are not in line with those listed for that particular model on the manufacturer¡¯s website e.g. a blackberry dual SIM phone.
f)     The phone may over heat as you speak or even explode as you charge it;
g)    The phone¡¯s reception may not be clear.

14.  What are the effects of using counterfeit phones?
a)    Poor voice calls
b)    Risk of excessive emission of radiation that may affect human health
c)    Risk of injury from heat and possible explosions
d)    Limited services due to pirated software.
e)    Short life span of the gadget and hence loss of money.

15.  Where can I get information on the characteristics/specifications of the phone that I intend to buy?
Visit website of the manufacturer of the mobile phone you intend to buy. You can also visit representatives/dealers of phone manufacturers in Uganda.

16.  If my phone is a counterfeit, will UCC switch it off immediately?
No, UCC will give you up to 30th June 2013 to plan and budget to replace your counterfeit phone with a genuine one.

17.  When will telecom operators stop accepting connections to new counterfeit mobile phones?
UCC expects operators to stop accepting new connections of counterfeit phones on 31st January 2012.

18.  When is the switch off date of all counterfeit phones?
UCC will switch off all counterfeit phones on 30th June 2013.

19.  How will an operator know that my phone is counterfeit?
All operators can have access to the GSMA database of legitimate IMEIs. In addition, when a telephone call is initiated on a network, information about the mobile phone that is being used is transmitted to the operator¡¯s network.

20.  Will UCC compensate me if my phone is counterfeit and it is switched off?
No. UCC will not compensate you.

21.  If my phone is counterfeit and I want to dispose of it, where can I take it?
UCC has arranged for collection centres around the country. The list and addresses of the collection centres will be publicised.

22.  Will UCC pay me for surrendering a counterfeit phone?
No. UCC will not pay you for surrendering a counterfeit phone.

23.  Do counterfeit phones cause cancer?
Counterfeit mobile phones may cause cancer because the materials that they are made from are usually sub-standard and may be harmful to humans. The proper safety checks are not usually carried out during the manufacture of counterfeit phones as the manufacturers try to cut production costs.

24.  Are all Chinese phones counterfeit?
No, not all Chinese mobile phones are counterfeit. There are legitimate mobile phone manufacturers in China.

25.  What does the Ugandan law say about counterfeit phones?
Counterfeits management is provided for in the law of Uganda, under Chapter 37 (XXXVII) of the Penal Code Act (1950). The Anti counterfeits bill 2010 is also currently before parliament. 

26.  What other measures have been put in place to discourage the use distribution and purchase of counterfeit phones?
In addition to promoting awareness UCC is;
a)    Partnering with other government agencies, manufactures and vendors to control the importation and compliance to requirements counterfeit phones management.
b)    Re-enforcing its type approval function to ensure that all genuine phones are either type approved or type accepted by the Commission before they are sold in Uganda.