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What is RICA?

23rd August 2013

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The Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act 70 of 2002 (“RICA”) came into effect on the 1 July 2011. This happened against the background of a rise in organized criminal activity caused by sophisticated communication technology such as mobile telephones, satellite communications, email and other computer related communications. The legislature found it necessary to enact an act to combat such crimes and further assist the prevention thereof.

As a general rule, RICA prohibits the interception and monitoring of direct and indirect communications. However, there are certain exceptions, including where the interception and monitoring takes place with the consent of the parties involved or where it is carried out by law enforcement personnel in certain circumstances. RICA assists the investigation, detection and prevention of crime by law enforcement officers and agencies.

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The schedule to RICA lists the different kinds of crimes the Act aims to combat which include, amongst others, high treason, sedition, fraud and money laundering. RICA sets out circumstances under which law enforcement personnel may apply to a designated Judge of a High Court for an interception and monitoring direction and entry warrants, and the manner in which such directions and entry warrants are to be executed. When RICA came into effect, it repealed the Monitoring Prohibition Act, 1992.

RICA imposes duties on a telecommunication service provider (“TSP”) and/or electronic communication service provider (“ECSP”) to obtain and retain certain information from their customers. For example, RICA requires that all customers on all the cellular networks in South Africa should register all new and existing cellular phone numbers and to provide to their service providers all information required by the Act. The information to be obtained includes, inter alia, full names, identity number and/or company registration numbers, residential and business or postal address, whichever is applicable and a certified photocopy of the person’s identification document on which his or her photo, appear.

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RICA provides that TSP’s must make sure that they keep proper records of the collected information, and they should update any changes to such information provided it becomes aware of the said changes. The information collected from customers should be verified in order to enable the TSP to identify that particular customer, should it become necessary for the TSP to do so. ECSP are also under an obligation to verify the information collected in terms of RICA, the information collected must be recorded and stored; and the facility in or on which the information is recorded and stored, must be secure and only accessible to persons specifically designated by that ECSP.

In summary, RICA regulates all matters relating to interception and monitoring of direct and indirect communications. Should any persons decide to venture into any business that falls within the scope of RICA, compliance with RICA becomes of utmost importance, in order to assist in achieving the objects of RICA.

Written by Eric Mashida, candidate attorney at Adams & Adams

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