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Mobile Telephones (Re-programming) Act 2002

Summary and Background

3.The Mobile Telephones (Re-programming) Act creates a number of offences relating to the electronic identifiers of mobile wireless communications devices. In particular it becomes an offence to reprogramme the unique International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number which identifies a mobile telephone handset. It is also possible to interfere with the operation of the IMEI by the addition of a small electronic chip to the handset and this too is made illegal.

4.From September 2002 all the major mobile telephone network providers will be able to bar mobile telephone handsets, when these are reported stolen or lost, by reference to the IMEI number. However, if the IMEI number of the stolen or lost telephone is changed, it will not be possible to implement the barring process and the telephone will be able to continue in use.

5.It is clear from international Global System for Mobiles (GSM) standards that the IMEI number should not be changed and that it should be resistant to change. Indeed there is no legitimate reason why anyone other than the manufacturer of a mobile telephone (or its authorised agents) should need to alter an IMEI number.

6.It is expected that the creation of these new offences, taken together with the implementation of a handset barring system across all networks, should help remove the incentive for mobile telephone theft. According to research published by the Home Office in January 2002 (Mobile Phone Theft, Home Office Research Study 235), mobile telephones are involved in 28% of all robberies, compared to 8% three years previously.

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