House of Commons - Explanatory Note
House of Commons
Session 2004-05
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Arrangement of Clauses (Contents)

Mobile Telephones (Re-Programming) Bill


These notes refer to the Mobile Telephones (Re-programming) Bill as introduced in the House of Commons on 12th January 2005 [Bill 25]




     These explanatory notes relate to the Mobile Telephones (Re-programming) Bill which was introduced as a Private Member's Bill by Mr Kevan Jones on 12 January 2005. They have been prepared by the Home Office in order to assist the reader in understanding the Bill. They do not form part of the Bill and have not been endorsed by Parliament.

2.     The notes need to be read in conjunction with the Bill. They are not, and are not meant to be, a comprehensive description of the Bill. So where a clause or part of a clause does not seem to require any explanation or comment, none is given.


3.     The Mobile Telephones (Re-programming) Act 2002 ("the 2002 Act") created a number of offences relating to the electronic identifiers of mobile wireless communications devices. In particular it became an offence to change 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 was made an offence.

4.     From September 2002 all the major mobile telephone network providers have been 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 is not possible to implement the barring process and the telephone is 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. 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.

[Bill 25—EN]     53/4

6.     The Mobile Telephones (Re-programming) Bill amends the 2002 Act so as to widen the categories of persons involved in changing the electronic identifiers of mobile wireless communications devices who commit an offence under that Act.


Clause 1: Offering or agreeing to re-programme mobile telephone

7.     This clause amends section 1 of the 2002 Act to add to the circumstances in which an offence can be committed under that section. A person will commit an offence if he offers or agrees to change or interfere with an IMEI number or other unique device identifier, or if he offers or agrees to arrange for another person to do so. Commission of the offence is not dependent on re-programming actually taking place. The clause also has the effect that it will be possible to bring criminal proceedings for the offence even if the identity of the person (if any) who actually carries out the re-programming is unknown.

8.     The offence is triable either way. The offence is punishable on conviction on indictment by up to 5 years' imprisonment or a fine or both. The offence is punishable on summary conviction by up to 6 months' imprisonment or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum (currently £5,000) or both.

9.     It will not, however, be an offence for the manufacturer of a mobile telephone, or his authorised agent, to offer or agree to re-programme it, or to arrange for someone else to do so.

10.     The clause will (like section 1 of the 2002 Act) extend to the whole of the United Kingdom.


11.     Clause 1 comes into force on a day specified by order made by the Secretary of State.

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Prepared: 5 April 2005