The Department of Telecommunications (“DoT”), on 26th September 2022, notified the Prevention of tampering of the Mobile Device Equipment Identification Number (Amendment) Rules, 2022 (“IMEI 2022 Amendment”) amending the Prevention of tampering of the Mobile Device Equipment Identification Number Rules, 2017 (“IMEI Rules 2017”).
By way of brief background, the IMEI Rules, 2017 were introduced to prevent tampering with the unique 15-digit International Mobile Device Equipment Identification Number (“IMEI Number”), which is used to identify and validate a mobile device on a mobile network, in an attempt to deter cloning/counterfeiting and theft of mobile phones.
As per the IMEI Rules 2017, it is unlawful for any person other than the manufacturer to intentionally remove, obliterate, change or alter the unique IMEI Number or to intentionally use, produce, traffic in have control or custody of, or possess hardware or software knowing that it has been configured. For the purposes of these rules, a manufacturer is “a person who has lawfully obtained the right to assign a Mobile Device Equipment Identification Number to a mobile device before the initial sale of the mobile device.”
Thereafter, in February 2021, the DoT had introduced the Indian Counterfeited Device Restriction (“ICDR”) system for issuing IMEI certificates for import of mobile devices through various customs ports. The ICDR system replaced the IMEI Cloning and Duplication Restriction system, which was operated and maintained by Mobile Standard Alliance of India (MSAI). Further, on 4th July 2022, a Standard Operating Procedure (“SOP”) was issued for implementation of the Directorate General of Foreign Trade notification, dated 16th January 2015, which prohibited import of mobile phones with duplicate, fake and non-genuine IMEI.
Through the IMEI 2022 Amendment, the DoT has introduced a rule, namely Rule 4, stipulating mandatory registration requirements for both the manufacturer as well as the importer of the mobile device. As per the new rule, the IMEI number is to be registered with the ICDR portal of DoT in the following manner:
- All manufacturers are required to register the IMEI number of every mobile phone manufactured in India with the ICDR Portal prior to the first sale of the mobile phone. This rule will come into force with effect from 1st January 2023.
- All importers are required, with immediate effect, to register the IMEI Number of the mobile phone imported in India for sale, testing, research or any other purpose with the ICDR Portal prior to import of the mobile phone into India.
As per the February 2021 notification, the ICDR system was operationalized with effect from 28th January 2020. Accordingly, the IMEI 2022 Amendment appears to have been introduced to give legal teeth to the SOP and the registration requirements under this system.
Having said this, the twin timelines introduced by way of this amendment appear to put pressure on importers who are required to immediately register the IMEI numbers of the mobile devices imported by them.
While the intention behind introducing the IMEI 2022 Amendment is vested in the interest of stakeholders in the mobile ecosystem, the effectiveness of this system for preventing black-marketing and mobile device tampering will become clear in the fullness of time.
Link to DoT’s notification pertaining to prevention of tampering of the Mobile Device Equipment Identification Number (Amendment) Rules, 2022: https://egazette.nic.in/WriteReadData/2022/239133.pdf
Link to the Prevention of tampering of the Mobile Device Equipment Identification Number Rules, 2017: https://dot.gov.in/sites/default/files/2017_08_25%20Prevention%20of%20Mobile%20Tempering.pdf?download=1