Dangers of using illegal mobile phone repeaters

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WA consumers who purchase and use illegal mobile phone repeaters could face serious consequences, as the devices interfere with mobile phone networks and may prevent people making emergency calls.

The repeaters re-generate or replicate a mobile signal and can be purchased overseas or on the internet, often from unscrupulous suppliers who incorrectly inform consumers that they are legal to use in Australia. The Office of Fair Trading in NSW has served a ‘cease and desist’ order on Mobile Repeaters Australia, an overseas company that illegally supplies mobile repeaters to unsuspecting Australians.

The regulator of this area, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), advises that 13 repeaters were reported in WA in 2014 with four more reports so far this year. These figures don’t include the many repeaters dealt with directly by the mobile carriers who report that this is a major issue, particularly in regional and remote areas.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll said, unless the repeaters are tested and approved by an authorised telecommunications provider, they are a danger to the community and could put lives at risk.

“While the repeaters may boost a weak mobile signal for the user, the unlicensed device could interfere with the mobile reception of their neighbours and local community,” Ms Driscoll said.

“This could severely interrupt the operations of a local business or, at worst, prevent someone from making a life-saving emergency call. If found guilty, users of unlicensed devices could face two years jail or a fine of up to $255,000.”

General Manager of the Industry and Innovation division of the Department of Commerce Sandra Draper recommends that consumers who are having reception problems should consult with their telecommunications provider.

“Mobile phone repeaters can only be used with the written permission of telecommunications providers, and the carriers are best placed to assist consumers to purchase and install commercial-grade repeaters that are compatible with their systems and licensed for use in Australia,” Ms Draper said.

“The carrier may also be able to suggest other options available to improve mobile phone reception in your area, such as a hands-free car kit with a vehicle-mounted antenna.

“So under no circumstances install a mobile phone repeater in your home or business without the written approval of your phone’s carrier service, as this is a serious offence under the Radiocommunications Act.

“Some unlicensed repeaters offered online can be purchased for less than $100, which is substantially cheaper than the approved devices recommended by Telcos. However, offenders can be easily found as the interference is able to be tracked back to its source. So it’s definitely not worth taking the risk of installing these illegal devices just to save a few dollars.”

For information on mobile phone networks, contact your telephone company. More information on mobile phone repeaters is available on the ACMA website. There is also a factsheet and an infographic about mobile phone reception.

Consumers can also contact the ACMA's Customer Service Centre on 1300 850 115 or info@acma.gov.au.

END OF RELEASE

Media contact (Consumer Protection)

Consumer Protection
Media release
16 Jul 2015

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