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Mobile firms pledge to tackle handset theft

The UK’s mobile network operators, a number of high street retailers and a handful of handset manufacturers, on Friday agreed to a charter holding themselves accountable for tackling mobile phone theft in the country.

Under the banner of the Mobile Industry Crime Action Forum (MICAF), the industry players are working in partnership with the government and law enforcement agencies to stamp out the trade in stolen and lost handsets.

Jack Wraith, MICAF spokesman, told telecoms.com that much has already been achieved towards this aim, through the establishment of initiatives such as the Immobilise campaign and the creation of a national blacklist of IMEI numbers. These processes allow the blocking of reported stolen phones on the UK network and facilitate promotion of registration of their handset details by consumers as well as the provision of intelligence to support police operations.

However, Wraith said today’s agreement is all about making the MICAF members accountable for measurable levels of service in this area, such as informing customers of the benefits of registering their details against their handset.

“We stopped short of compulsory registration because of data protection issues,” said Wraith, “but we are trying to give police the power to interrogate data on handsets to prove ownership.”

The charter mandates that the IMEI, the unique identifier of handsets reported stolen is blocked on all UK networks via the UK Shared Equipment Identity Register (UKSEIR), in a timeframe agreed with the National Mobile Phone Crime Unit (NMPCU) and the Home Office.

This will be supported by an agreed programme of activity to raise awareness of mobile phone theft and provide advice to consumers.

However, while the priority of the latest initiative is focused on the UK, Wraith admitted that the success such strategies was pushing crime into another area – export. It is not unusual for a handset stolen in the UK to be sold on in an underdeveloped country which has not yet joined the international IMEI blacklist.

However, Wraith said that discussions were ongoing on an international level and the EU has been weighing in heavily on facilitating co-operation. “The reason we put the database on the GSM platform is to give it global reach,” Wraith said.


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