The Home Office’s new Code of Practice currently in preparation will require mobile phone recyclers to check whether phones sent for recycling are on the National Mobile Phone Register. The idea is to stop criminals from getting on average £25 for every stolen phone. Sounds like a good move, but some point out that this is nothing new and in many cases recyclers are already doing this.
Not many of the phones sent to recyclers actually get dismantled for recycling. Most are sent to the developing world because recent models can be sold for a healthy profit. More and more of the countries receiving these phones are registered on the international database of stolen phones, so mobile phone recyclers, who in these instances are effectively mobile resellers, are required to check the database in any case.
The Home Office says that the 100,000 stolen mobiles sent for recycling each year equates to about £2.5 million worth of illegal profits for criminals.
Recipero is the company that operates the Immobilise database of stolen handsets for the UK police and they say that most mobile phone recyclers are already running database checks, so they have a pretty accurate picture of how many stolen phones are being sent to recyclers. It follows that cash does not end up being paid out for these phones, so the criminals don’t actually get the £2.5m.
Some inside the industry consider the Home Office’s action looks more like ministers being seen to be acting tough on mobile phone thieves when the reality is that the recycling industry was doing that anyway.