mm1Individuals who receive mobile money that is wrongly transferred to their account but decline to return it to the owner could soon land in jail if new penalties are enforced.

MTN officials told MPs on the Parliamentary Committee on ICT yesterday that due to increased incidents of money being posted to wrong accounts, telecoms and Bank of Uganda have come up with stringent rules to govern transfer of mobile money. According to Mike Blackburn, the MTN chief finance officer, the accounts of such individuals will be frozen.

But if they quickly withdraw the money and later destroy the simcards, the companies will track them using their phone registration data and hand them over to the Police for action, Blackburn said.

“Two weeks ago we agreed that immediately we receive the complaint, the first thing to do is to freeze the wrong recipient’s account. Bring the two parties together and ask the other person to remit the senders’ money. But if one rushes and withdraws the money and denies receiving it, the issue will now become criminal and he will prosecuted according to the law,” he said.Blackburn and other MTN officials led by the chief executive officer, Mazen Mroue, were responding to complaints raised by MPs over the increased incidents of people losing money through mobile phones.

MP Mariam Nalubega and Vincent Bagiire asked the officials to explain whether the company had come up with rules to retrieving money sent on wrong mobile accounts.

“I have on several occasions witnessed mobile money agents sending people’s money to wrong accounts. When you call the person, they admit receiving the money but decline to return it to you. Sometimes, if it’s too much, they switch off their phones,” Nalubega complained.

Paula Turyahikayo, the committee chairperson, demanded to know the whereabouts of billions of unclaimed mobile monies.  “Some people send money to none-existent mobile numbers while others do not come up to claim this money. Where is this money and who is keeping it?” she asked.

Mroue explained that all unclaimed mobile money is kept on a separate account in Stanbic Bank, but he could not reveal the amount saying the details were still with the bank that handles the transactions.

Mroue complained of excessive taxes on mobile telecommunications and requested MPs to address some of “these issues.”

For instance, he proposed that Parliament freeze future plans by the Government to add more taxes on telecom companies because the taxes affect their performance. This, according to Mroue, will secure traditional investment, help to stabilise the market and increase market consolidation and also encourage the company operators to manage properly the effective market rate and tariffs.

“Due to a number of challenges, including the high taxes in the region, telecommunication companies made losses worth sh145b in 2011,” he said.

He also decried high incidents of vandalism and requested the legislators to come up with new laws similar to other countries. “Unless strict laws are put in place, infrastructure vandalism will continue since theft of fuel and cables at the sites is a thriving business,” he said.

Credit: The New Vision