Australia bans mobile 'rebirthing'

New legislation makes it a criminal offence to modify a phone's electronic serial number illegally

The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) has lauded legislation passed by the Senate this week making it a criminal offence to "rebirth" stolen mobile phones by illegally modifying a phone's electronic serial number.

AMTA chief executive officer, Graham Chalker, said the new law, which could jail offenders for up to two years, "sends a strong signal to thieves and gives consumers more protection".

The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Telecommunications Offences and other Measures) Bill is an omnibus bill that updates a number of offences originally enacted in 1989 relating to misuse of telecommunications services and moves them from the Crimes Act to the Criminal Code.

The bill includes offences to prevent the rebirthing of stolen mobile phones and the copying of mobile phone SIM cards.

It also creates a number of new offences on a range of topics such as using a carriage service, including the Internet, to access, transmit or publish child pornography or child abuse material and of procuring or grooming a person under 16 years of age for sexual activity.

Chalker said the telecommunications industry welcomes the new law, adding that the government has taken "a strong step in anti-theft measures to combat people stealing mobile phones".

The new law comes as AMTA introduced a new online service which gives consumers an easy way to check the status of their mobile phone.

Chalker said the new online inquiry service makes it convenient for consumers and second-hand sellers to check if a mobile phone has been reported lost or stolen and blocked from use by the network carriers.

"People in the market who buy second-hand phones through a second-hand dealer or over the Internet will be able to check at if it has been reported lost or stolen and has been blocked from use by the network carriers," he said.

Almost 12 months ago, the Australian mobile telephone industry introduced an anti-theft technology which blocks lost or stolen mobile phones by using each phone's unique 15-digit electronic serial number, known as the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number.

Chalker said nearly 165,000 mobiles have been blocked in the nine months since the programme started.

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