Amazon, Alibaba, Flipkart, Snapdeal and others get an angry letter from India's telecom regulator

Amazon, Alibaba, Flipkart, Snapdeal and others get an angry letter from India's telecom regulator
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The Department of Telecommunications had repeatedly warned e-commerce companies in 2016 and 2019 for sale of unauthorised mobile signal boosters and illegal facilitation.

The matter has heated up once again as Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has asked DoT to ban sale of such illegal equipment.

In a letter to all e-commerce companies on May 1, 2019, DoT had said that ecommerce firms are facilitating and acting as a party to the illegal sale of unauthorised mobile signal boosters.

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In response to a statement that e-commerce sites are intermediaries only, DoT had said that they are operating as "online marketplace" and are covered under the provisions of Section 79 of the IT Act.

The DoT said there is a need to have a Dealer Possession License (DPL) under the provisions of the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act 1933 by the seller for the wireless equipment.

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"Therefore, it is reiterated that if there is an licensing/statutory requirement on telecom equipment being sold or purchased it will be the responsibility of those purchasing or selling it as well as of the intermediaries facilitating such sale and purchase that the relevant statutes of the Government are not violated", DoT said.

E-commerce sites had been asked to take corrective action to remove the sale and display of unauthorised boosters from the website and compliance to be intimated to DoT.

This letter was addressed to Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal, Shopclues, Rediff, Indiamart, Alibaba, Aliexpress and Ebay. Similar warnings were issued in 2016 also.

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In March 2019, COAI sent letters to Flipkart and Amazon stating that these boosters fall under the category of "Wireless Telegraphy Apparatus", and the act prohibits possession of such apparatus without a licence.

COAI had asked these companies to cease and desist from selling mobile signal boosters on the platform.

COAI had yesterday asked the Department of Telecommunications to ensure complete ban on sale of illegal repeaters and boosters, offline or online through e-commerce websites.

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It has also asked DoT to take up the issue with Ministry of Commerce and Industry to prohibit import of such illegal boosters in the country with immediate effect.

DoT has also been asked to request MHA to issue appropriate directions to State DGPs/CPs/Chief Secretaries to take action under law against the sellers of illegal repeaters in the country.

COAI has pointed out in a letter that the grey market outlets and online ecommerce stores are making illegal low cost repeaters available for anyone to buy and install illegally.

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"The concern is that, such wide band devices draw in network signals to provide connectivity to a particular building or area in an unregulated manner, thereby depleting the network strength in other surrounding areas and results into call drops and depleted network quality", COAI said.

The telecom industry has voiced its concerns as to how these illegal repeaters have become a major nuisance and are one of the biggest cause for customers facing mobile network issues like call drops and low data speeds, especially in densely populated localities.

"Available freely in electronics markets, these repeaters are installed by unauthorised agencies at homes, offices, hostels and guest houses to boost mobile signal strengths. Even landlords and home owners are illegally installing such devices in densely populated areas to attract tenants, thereby adversely impacting mobile network availability in the entire given area, be it 2G, 3G or 4G networks", COAI said.

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