BitPesa, Lipisha sue Kenyan operator Safaricom over suspension of services

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Kenyan bitcoin remittance startup BitPesa and automated mobile payments company Lipisha have taken the country’s leading mobile operator Safaricom to court over allegations it intimidated Lipisha and forced it to suspend its services without notice.

BitPesa allows individuals to transit money in Bitcoin that the company then converts into physical currency, while it recently announced the launch of BitPesa for Business, a service allowing multiple payments to be made through one transaction.

The Lipisha automated mobile payments platform allows businesses to collect, automate and integrate payments from customers and clients using mobile money, and was a service used by BitPesa until November 12, when it is alleged access was cut off for BitPesa by Safaricom.

The two complainants allege that the termination was carried out without notice, with Lipisha notified via SMS after it had occurred. They also say Safaricom “intimidated” Lipisha in order to stop it from offering services to BitPesa.

BitPesa chief executive officer (CEO) Elizabeth Rossiello said she did not wish to comment on a matter that is in court, but said the company had legitimate reasons for taking the action.

“BitPesa has been wronged, which is why we have referred the matter to court. The evidence submitted to the court speaks for itself. We remain confident that even a small company like BitPesa will gain a fair trial and look forward to the court’s decision,” she said.

BitPesa secured a US$1.1 million funding round in January, and over the course of the year has expanded operations to Tanzania, Uganda and Nigeria.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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