California considers the "kill switch"

California considers the "kill switch"

By Bobby Elliott, E-Scrap News

Feb. 14, 2014

California legislators will take up "kill switch" technology this legislative session in hopes of reducing rising cell phone and tablet theft in the Golden State.

Under a proposal from state Sen. Mark Leno, devices sold in California would come pre-equipped with the "theft-deterrent solution," which enables consumers to disable stolen devices. The measure would take effect Jan. 1, 2015.

Its impact on e-scrap recycling could be significant. With smartphone theft becoming a rising concern in cities across America, electronics buy-back firms have been accused of contributing to the problem by offering "quick cash" for stolen devices. Kill switch technology could lead to buy-back businesses receiving fewer stolen devices and, in turn, less criticism from law enforcement and other opponents.

One firm that's faced heat over theft is ecoATM, whose CEO Mark Bowles last week voiced his support for the kill switch safeguard. According to Bowles, the company has more than 800 automated kiosks in operation throughout the U.S. and recycles 30 to 40 percent of traded-in devices. The remaining devices are refurbished and re-sold.

A press release by Sen. Leno states some "disincentives" do exist when it comes to manufacturers and carriers. "The replacement of lost and stolen smartphones and tablets is a $30 billion business in the U.S. alone," the release reads. "In addition, the nation’s four largest wireless carriers make an estimated $7.8 billion on theft and loss insurance products."

Sen. Leno's bill, the first of its kind in the country, would allow consumers to opt-out of the security option. Carriers and manufacturers found to be ducking their kill switch technology obligations would be fined.

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