EVIDENCE: POLITICIAN & BUSINESSMAN PINS MTN ON COLLUDING WITH FRAUDSTERS IN DATA, MOBILE MONEY SCAMS
By Mulengera Reporter
The woes of telecommunication giant MTN are far from over after businessman and politician Denis Namara offered implicating evidence of the company’s collusion with fraudsters, gaps in their emergency responses, and laid their theft of data and voice bundles bare.
In his amended plaint submitted to the Civil Division of the High Court in Kampala, Namara, a Ugandan representative in regional parliament the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), wants MTN, competitor Airtel and their regulator Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to pay him Shs10bn “to atone for the injury and damage suffered by himself and other members of the public.”
Namara accuses MTN and Airtel of breach of license and negligence. For UCC, he places only the latter charge.
He asserts that the two telecom companies had breached their licenses by ‘fraudulently’ deducting his data, failing to safeguard his bundles, resolve questions he raised, and resolve conflicts with customers, flouting relevant UCC regulations and failure to protect his constitutionally protected rights.
This breach could further damage MTN whose license still hangs in balance over allegations of under declaration of profits as well as security concerns that have irked President Yoweri Museveni, who in turn put UCC officials on notice for failing to regulate the company.
MTN had a tough 2019, with top officials deported over these matters. The last thing the company would want, as it reels from a devastating year, is evidence that exposes how much they have breached the terms of their license.
As for the charge of negligence, Namara faults the two telecom companies for failing and neglecting their duty of ensuring that his phone records and personal data and voice bundles were “not tampered with”, and failure to exercise a high degree and duty of care, good faith and responsibility to protect his data.
He also says the companies did not only fail to “act fairly and reasonably in dealings” with his personal data and internet bundles, but were also unsuccessful in punishing staff involved in the fraudulent activities.
For UCC, he asserts that the regulator failed to protect his phone records and communications, something the agency would have done by supervising MTN and Airtel to ensure their compliance with the Constitution and relevant regulations governing the industry.
He also argues that UCC failed to stop the two companies from engaging in activities aimed at “unfair and unjust enrichment through reckless deprivation of customers’ and subscribers’ internet data bundles.”
MTN SELLS NAMARA’S LINE TO FRAUDSTERS
Namara further places a higher burden on MTN, revealing the trouble the network took him through and how the company illegally swapped his phone number, opening it to fraudsters to con his friends, family members and business associates.
According to the youthful legislator, MTN gave his line (number 0774117175) to another person 11 years ago, and deregistered his name.
“The said person now extorts money from the public claiming to be the plaintiff [me],” says Namara.
For example, he adds, the person who MTN gave the number used the same line to con one of his employees in the same year (2009) it was deregistered.
Namara’s revelation offers key clues into why telecom companies have failed to work with security authorities to apprehend conmen involved in mobile money fraud and murder.
Some of these fraudsters send text messages to random numbers informing their owners they have wrongly sent certain amounts of money to their numbers. They then ask that the amounts be sent back to them less by a certain amount as a reward for the recipient’s goodwill. Some unsuspecting recipients send the money, only to later learn they sent their hard-earned money to someone who had forwarded ‘air’ to them.
Some people who reported such cases to MTN have all told Mulengera News the telecom network had disappointed them by failing to bring these crooks to book.
THE CROCODILES WHICH GOBBLE BUNDLES
Noting that he spends at least Shs20,000 daily for his monthly and weekly bundles on average, the lawmaker complained the packages “would expire before the dates indicated in the messages.”
He also later noticed that his data and voice bundles “had started diminishing abnormally whenever he could put the data load” until he decided “it was getting intolerable.”
The loyal National Resistance Movement (NRM) youth leader further argued that “unauthorized deduction of his data” had denied him a chance to “communicate with his constituents, friends, family, business associates, official contacts and other government officials whom he was supposed to give accountability to.”
By seemingly colluding with fraudsters, Namara further argues, MTN and Airtel failed “in their contractual and statutory duty to ensure that neither they nor their employees, servants and agents engage in unlawful activities of electronic fraud, unlawful deduction of the plaintiff’s duly paid up data bundles, and unauthorized access to the plaintiff’s internet bundles in total breach of the contractual and legal duties owed to him.”
WHAT NAMARA WANTS COURT TO DO TO TELECOM COMPANIES
Namara has already prepared data usage printouts showing how MTN gonyas (crocodiles) and Airtel crooks chewed his data bundles before he could even load one page.
He now wants court to declare that telecom operators’ deduction of his data bundles “without his consent and/or authorization” and before he has exhausted them “is unlawful and a breach of the client-customer relationship of utmost good faith.”
The MP also wants court to order MTN and Airtel, their servants, agents and anyone else working under their command to stop deducting customers bundles.
Arguing that he had incurred “enormous loss”, he also wants telecom companies to compensate him for the data unlawfully lost and deducted from the time MTN and Airtel started the “illegal practices” until the date he sued them.
Other orders Namara seeks include those touching on payment of general, exemplary and punitive damages, court rate interest on money for general damages and compensation for data and voice bundles lost, as well as the costs of the suit. Put together, the companies and their regulator will be required to cough over Shs10bn if court grants Namara’s prayers. (For comments on this story, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994, 0200900416 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org).