SIMs - Only With IDs: End of Anonymous Mobile Communications in Russia? analytical material involving S&K Vertical

18 may 2018 2018-05-18

Since 1 June 2018, the amendments made in the Law "On Communications" have become effective. Their core meaning is prohibition of so-called "grey" SIM cards. Will it be successful to win the anonymous market of mobile communications?

New amendments have two main goals: identification of end users of mobile communications and establishment of prohibition to distributing SIM cards, as well as concluding mobile communications agreements out of the territories of stationary retail facilities (except for the cases of concluding agreements in vehicles intended for this or via Internet).

The main recited purpose of the law is provision of general security when using mobile communications.

What are "grey" SIM cards and where do they come from?

"Grey" SIM cards is a long-time scourge of the mobile operators' market. These are SIM cards, which are being constantly distributing at the metro. You pay 100 or 200 roubles, take an envelope, insert a SIM card in your phone and speak. At that, nobody fixed your passport details. It means that the real owner of SIM card is someone else. So, "grey" SIM cards are acquired without presenting a document, certifying the identity.

Very often, such SIM cards are distributed by concluding agreements for corporate communications with small firms that are frequently fly-by-night companies. SIM cards are not registered at all or registered with fake passport details. Then, they come to people.

Who, how and for what purposes uses "grey" SIM cards?

There are many options: from quite ordinary to openly criminal ones. In real life, people can use such SIM cards for operations that require anonymity: for sale of something on sites of free ads, for registrations on multiple resources, for dating services.

It is obvious that anonymity attracts not only law-abiding citizens, but also criminal world. Such SIM cards are used by cheats, racketeers and even terrorists to coordinate their activity. That is why long since the state has been taking measures to destroy this market. In addition, mobile operators struggle with such SIM cards, controlling and verifying the dealers. However, SIM cards distribution at the metro is going on.

What do new amendments to the Law "On Communications" change?

The obligation is placed on mobile operators to ensure reliability of data regarding end users of mobile communications. For this purpose, operators get an access to the Unified System of Identification and Authentication, the Unified Public Services Portal, other information resources of public authorities. At that, in this case the consent of subscribers - individuals and end users of mobile communications for obtaining information is not required.

Thus, for specified cases, exception to the rules in relation to the sensitive nature of information is made. If the data on subscribers or end users of mobile communications is not confirmed, the mobile operator is entitled to suspend provision of the services.

Besides, individuals are users of numbers owned by legal entities will not be able to pay for communications services by themselves. Only legal entities subscribers (including individual entrepreneurs) which own these numbers will be able to make payments for communications services on such numbers from their payment accounts in the Russian banks.

Legal entities and individual entrepreneurs subscribers when using corporate tariff are obliged to provide the mobile operator with data on each real user.

As it follows from the literal text of the law, it has a retrospective effect for communications relations arisen previously, only concerning settlements. The general rule is that, as for the rest, its effect applies to communications relations (agreements on provision of the communications services) arisen following 1 June 2018.

At the same time, it seems that in connection with the new accrued powers of Roskomnadzor to initiate the termination of communications services with respect to certain communications subscribers, the specified body is entitled to do that on numbers issued previously.

Accordingly, if a subscriber or an end user wishes to retain the mobile number (attached to a third party), it is required to provide a relevant mobile operator with reliable information about himself/itself.

How will operators enforce the law and combat the "grey" SIM cards market?

Given that the obligation to verify the reliability of the user refers only to new agreements concluded since 1 June 2018, operators do not have to verify SIM cards issued previously. Nevertheless, the operator’s representatives told on the verifications of subscribers. Subscribers received mailouts with the request to go to the nearest communications store of their operator and confirm the data.

There are also remote ways to confirm identity. For instance, MTS subscribers, which were requested by the operator to confirm the data, could make it via a smartphone or PC, clicking the encrypted link on MTS site, where it is required to enter the passport details to an electronic form. In the nearest time for MegaFon subscribers it will be available to confirm the data using operator's Personal Account or using the login account on the Public Services Portal.

The main "bottleneck" for the "grey" SIM cards market should be impossibility to pay accounts for communications by individuals, if a SIM card is registered to a legal entity. As it is just inconvenient, most of subscribers will prefer to "come out of the shadow" and register the SIM card to their name.

Besides, all operators of "The Big Four" discuss increase of control over the dealers of SIM cards, inspections of communications stores and severe fines for unfair partners.

Yet, the main "bottleneck" for the "grey" SIM cards market should be impossibility to pay accounts for communications by individuals, if a SIM card is registered to a legal entity. As it is just inconvenient, most of subscribers will prefer to "come out of the shadow" and register the SIM card to their name.

Still, as also the authors of the amendments to the law acknowledge, the responsibility for non-fulfilment of the requirements for identification of users has not led to improvement in the situation. The number of violations with respect to the correct collection of information by operators on subscribers or prevention of SIM cards distribution without concluding agreements is not reduced. That is why there are no guaranties that the new law will fundamentally change the situation to the better.

The issue remains concerning SIM cards used in so-called "Internet of Things": video cameras, sensors, autonomous cars, etc. The fact is that, for instance, many of such SIM cards can be involved at enterprises and registering each of them to a specific passport is physically impossible.

What should you do, if you have a "grey" SIM card or it is registered not to you?

To begin with, even if you registered your SIM card at the operator's communications store to your passport lawfully, it does not guarantee that your data in the operator's database is correct. Mistakes often happen, and in the situation created you may have difficulties. That is why, it is better to ascertain data by going to the nearest communications store of your operator with your passport.

If you use the "grey" SIM card deliberately, it is high time to make a decision. There can be two options. The first one: to refuse using this SIM card and choose a new number, having registered it according to all rules. The second one: to contact the operator with a request to re-register the number to you. In the second case, the process may be not very fast, but if desired and due to persistence of a subscriber, everything is possible.


We thank for help Elena Batura, Project Manager of S&K Vertikal Law Firm, as well as the media offices of MTS, MegaFon, Beeline and Tele2 in preparing the material.


Пресненская набережная, 6 строение 2 123112 Москва
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