JEDDAH — Personnel in shops selling mobile phones were seen yesterday desperately attempting to dispose of a large quantity of unregistered pre-paid SIM cards following a decision made by the Saudi Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC). The decree states that it is obligatory for mobile phone users to enter their national ID or Iqama number in order to recharge or transfer credit to other mobile users starting from July 31.
“The procedure was aimed at ending the practice of anonymous persons misusing SIM cards,” said the CITC in a statement on Wednesday.
Muhammad, an expatriate worker at a communications shop, said at present there are no pre-paid SIM cards for sale at his shop. “Pre-paid SIM cards are now sold only at the Kingdom’s three mobile phone operators – STC, Mobily and Zain,” he said.
Muhammad recalled that his shop, which committed the violation of selling pre-paid SIM cards, was closed down for eight days, fined SR15,000 and had all of its cards confiscated. “We know that these illegal cards may pose serious threats to society but the suppliers should be punished not the investors in the communications sector,” he added.
The move was welcomed by residents who say unregistered pre-paid SIM cards are bought by telemarketers, scammers and people who make prank phone calls. Authorities, who were previously unable to track the owner of the SIM cards, hope the new measure will prevent abuse of the Kingdom’s mobile phone services.
In Dammam, the former chairman of the Communications and IT committee at the Eastern Region’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Khaled Al-Abdul Karim, described the decision as a “precautionary measure” to end the practice of selling SIM cards and refilling vouchers indiscriminately. He accused telecommunications companies of not being stringent in their supply of cards.
“The number of unknown cards are in millions not just thousands. They are left over by the pilgrims or given to others by expatriates after leaving the country on final exit visas,” he said.
Abdullah Shakir, a shopper at a communications shop, expressed satisfaction over the decision. “This decision will prevent people from taking advantage of the anonymity unregistered cards offered and will put an end to the use of these cards in various crimes,” he added.
Muhammad Al-Salim, another shopper, also supported the decision and said it would better serve the stability of the country and the people. “The decision will oblige the unknown mobile users to reveal their real identities,” he said.
Hassan Ali Abu Hadi, a seller of mobile phones, dismissed the possibility of sales of phones going down after the decision of the CITC. “More and more citizens and expatriates are going for smart phones such as the iPhone and blackberries,” he said.
A number of mobile shops have strictly implemented the warnings to this effect issued by the permanent committee to combat IT crimes at the Riyadh Governorate and the CITC. A warning was clearly placed on all mobile phone retailers, which included a list of the consequences of violating the decree. This included confiscation of phones and cards, closure of the shop, and deportation of expatriate workers.