updated 04:24 pm EDT, Thu May 15, 2014
Law effective July 1, 2015 set to deter violent thieves, resale record keeping
Minnesota's Governor Mark Dayton signed a bill yesterday that would require all cell phones sold within the state to have a "kill switch" starting July 1, 2015. By signing SF1740 legislation into law, the state beats California to the punch in mandating the theft countermeasure. California's bill was only recently passed by its Senate, but still requires approval by Governor Jerry Brown before becoming law.
The bill was intended as a way to deter cell phone theft, which often leads to more serious infringements into the private information of consumers. The new law is in addition to other measures that would remove the value of a cell phone from the equation, such as Apple's "activation lock" feature.
"This law will help combat the growing number of violent cell phone thefts in Minnesota," says Governor Dayton.
The new law is sure to have detractors, but overall the governing body of the state sees signing of the bill as a benefit. Wireless carriers have spoken up against such laws in the past, but more recently have seen a change of heart as thefts have become more violent. Until recently, most carriers had little concern for stolen cell phones being re-activated on their network, as they benefit from the new customer either way.
The CTIA, a nonprofit organization that represents the wireless communication industry, released a "Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment" that outlined "a baseline anti-theft tool that is preloaded or downloadable on wireless smartphones." This includes being able to remotely wipe the phone or brick it altogether. Companies, such as the four major US carriers, Google, Nokia, Samsung and Asurion, were listed as participating in the commitment.
Interestingly, companies like Asurion have the most to lose with this sort of commitment or Minnesota's law. The company, which sells insurance through carriers for lost or damaged phones, has the potential to see a decrease in revenue unless it changes the way it offers the coverage.
On the side of cell phone value, the law includes information that will make selling stolen phones much harder for criminals. If the phone isn't disabled, resellers buying the devices will no longer be able to pay for the devices with cash. Any vendor purchasing a used phone will have to issue payment via store credit, a mailed check or an electronic transfer.
Record-keeping requirements have been added that would hold businesses to criminal punishment if not complied with. Records, similar to those a pawn shop collect, must be kept on file for three years -- and have safeguards in place to protect a seller's information. Additionally, no one under the age of 18 would be able to sell a cell phone through these channels under the law.
"Cell phone theft is a major concern here in Minnesota and around the country," says bill author Senator Katie Sieben. "This legislation, which is the first of its kind in the country, will help reduce the likelihood that people will be robbed of their smart phones."