Attorney General Biden leads call for smartphone makers to take steps to protect consumers

Date Posted: Tuesday, November 12th, 2013
Categories:  Consumer Protection Department of Justice DOJ Press Releases Fraud

31 State Attorneys General join international coalition encouraging smartphone manufacturers to protect the safety of consumers

Wilmington – Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, along with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, led an effort joined by 29 of their fellow state attorneys general in urging three leading smartphone manufacturers to develop more robust anti-theft features that would better protect smartphone users by deterring theft of the devices.

“The growing popularity of smartphones has made them valuable targets for thieves who sell them on black markets across the country and around the world,” Biden said.  “I’m concerned that this thriving black market puts consumers needlessly at risk of theft and violence.  That’s why my fellow Attorneys General have joined together to press the smartphone industry, which can and should do more to develop anti-theft features that reduce or eliminate the value of these devices to criminals.”

In a letter sent today to Google/Motorola, Samsung, and Microsoft, the bipartisan group of 31 attorneys general urged the companies to develop a technological means to protect smartphone users by drying up secondary markets for stolen devices and eliminate the economic incentive for theft.  “While some new anti-theft security features are encouraging, the response from manufacturers needs to be more robust,” the letter stated.  “For example, to the extent these security features have an opt-out component, or require consumers to pay for them, they may not be very effective.”  The Attorneys General pointed to the South Korean requirement that devices be produced with a “kill switch” that would enable stolen devices to be permanently disabled as an example of technology that would protect consumers and discourage theft.

The Attorneys General are members of the Secure Our Smartphones (S.O.S.) Initiative, a coalition of prosecutors, police chiefs, attorneys general, public officials and consumer activists launched earlier this year to combat the rise in violent street crimes involving smartphone thefts.  Coalition members are committed to pressing the industry to find effective solutions to stopping the epidemic known as “Apple Picking” – the theft of popular mobile communications devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Last year in Delaware, 1,894 electronic communication devises were reported stolen to police, and nationally, thefts of smartphones have spiked dramatically.  In the US, one in three thefts involves a mobile communications device, and Consumer Reports estimates that 1.6 million Americans were victimized by smartphone thieves in 2012.  Mobile electronic devices that are stolen across the US help feed the growing international trade in stolen devices.

The states that joined Biden and Schneiderman in today’s letter include: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, and Vermont, as well as the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico. These states join eight current S.O.S. Initiative members: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska and New York.

A copy of the letter sent by the attorneys general to smartphone manufacturers is attached.

Final SOS Letter

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