A subscriber in Uganda, Mr Gideon Tugume, has sued telecommunication companies over airtime and money left in mobile wallets after the owners die or leave the country.
In the suit, Tugume faults the companies for secretly retaining the monies as their own and reselling the SIM cards to new subscribers.
Reports by the Monitor indicate that the man wants the court to order all telecom companies to display in leading newspapers all mobile money balances on dormant SIM cards whose owners have died.
“Surprisingly even if one goes outside the country for study, work or to do anything beyond three months, all the money and airtime on the SIM card are retained by the defendants. This is not only illegal but also felonious in nature where Ugandans have lost billions of money as unclaimed balances on their SIM cards and this information is hidden by the defendants,” Mr Tugume’s petition states in part.
He says that the telecoms should be forced to refund the money to the owners or their next-of-kins, or submitted to the government’s Consolidated Fund account.
He says that his suit was inspired by an incidence where he tried replacing his Airtel SIM card, only to realise that it had been given to another subscriber, with all his airtime balance and mobile money gone.
The same applies to Kenya and East African countries, where mobile money service providers claim to submit such unclaimed money to the central banks of their respective countries, but are never reflected in their financial statements.
At times, they add to the companies’ financial pool, with owners left on their own.
The case implicates MTN, Airtel, UTL and Africell.