The next time you buy a made-in-China phone, or a counterfeit model without an IMEI number, you could go to jail.
The government has said phones without the IMEI, or International Mobile Equipment Identity number, are illegal. Cellphones without IMEI numbers cannot be traced and are frequently used by criminals.
“On September 3, state issued a notification to the Department of Telecommunication that after November 30, any cellphone without an IMEI number will be considered illegal,” said Sanjeev Kokil, senior police inspector, MRA Marg police station.
Cellphone makers like Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson, among others, have formed an association called Indian Cellular Association (ICA) to stop counterfeiting of their brands.
Kokil said on Wednesday the ICA tipped off the police about counterfeit phones circulating in their jurisdiction. The police raided 11 shops in Manish Market, Musafirkhana Market and MK Market and seized 367 China-made cellphones.
“We did not find any counterfeit phones of the ICA members, but when asked to show documents for the seized Chinese phones, the shop owners couldn’t tell us where they sourced the phones from. We’ve booked them since we suspect these phones, worth Rs 8 lakh, have been sourced illegally,” he added.
ICA Chairman Pankaj Mahendru said after November 30, all cellphone service providers will have to disconnect those numbers that have counterfeit or no IMEI numbers: “When you make a call, your service provider can identify your IMEI number from the equipment identity register.”
Asked if the phones seized lacked IMEI numbers, Kokil said their packaging claimed they did, but the police suspect otherwise: “We will now call in experts to check if the 367 phones have IMEI numbers. If they don’t, we’ll book the shopowners,” said Kokil.
“Phones that do not have correct IMEI numbers cannot be traced. We’ve solved many cases by tracing cellphones of criminals using the IMEI number,” said Vishwas Nangre Patil, deputy commissioner of police.