Safaricom, East Africa's leading telecommunications company, is facing two major lawsuits from customers seeking accountability from the telco giant.
In a class-action suit against Safaricom, three M-Pesa users alleged that the company uses its customers' money to engage in profit-making financial lending services without consent, despite not being registered as a bank, in contravention of the country's Banking Act.
The complainants are seeking $2.38 billion in damages from Safaricom and Vodafone Group for fraudulent misrepresentation, material non-disclosure of facts, illegal and unlawful investment of M-Pesa account holders' funds, predatory lending practices, and charging exorbitant interest rates.
The Nairobi-based firm has also faced renewed criticism in recent months over the credibility of its mobile overdraft facility Fuliza, which runs on the popular mobile money service M-Pesa. Additionally, there has been a rise in cases of SIM swap fraud targeting Fuliza limits.
Safaricom's 15-year partnership with the country's KCB and NCBA commercial banks has led to profit-making through offering lending services. However, the company is yet to pay any interest to its more than 32 million M-Pesa account holders, whose money it uses to lend and earn profits.
The company's woes are compounded by the perception that it is not doing enough to address SIM swap fraud, which has seen customers losing millions through scams and fraud targeting its mobile money services.
The legal lawsuits will not only cause reputational damage but also financial losses when victims require compensation.