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E-comm Firms Must Not Sell Unauthorized Signal Boosters, Says COAI

The sale of unauthorized mobile signal boosters and repeaters on e-commerce platforms like Amazon and Flipkart has not gone down well with telecom operators, as they feel it violates the law and also usage of such equipment interferes with their licensed frequency bands, impacting overall quality of services.

In similarly worded letters to Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal and Rediff.com, industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said the e-commerce platforms should immediately cease and desist from selling such equipment as there has been clear provisions of law and specific directions from the department of telecommunications (DoT) prohibiting possession and sale without obtaining a requisite permission.

As per COAI, the platforms have been selling mobile signal boosters or repeaters which can enhance signals in the 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz and 2300 MHz bands, which are licensed spectrum bands assigned to operators to provide telephony services. The signal boosters fall under the definition of “wireless telegraphy apparatus” and “wireless transmitter” under the Indian Wireless Telegraph Act, 1933, which prohibits possession of such apparatus without a licence.

“It is pertinent to note that possession and sale of such equipment, without obtaining requisite permissions under the Act and rules…constitutes violation of the provisions of the Act and is a punishable offense,” COAI said in the letter. As per provisions of the Act, whoever violates the law can be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years and can be fined or imposed with both.

The industry body cited a letter dated May 10, 2016 from DoT whereby specific directions were issued with regard to online sale of wireless sets and equipment. Through the letter, DoT conveyed to e-commerce companies that no person or dealer shall sell or hire wireless equipment to any person, unless such person or dealer holds a valid dealer possession licence (DPL). The DPL holder can sell wireless equipment only to such person or entity that holds an authorization issued by DoT. In response to DoT’s letter, some e-commerce companies had stated that their role was of an intermediary only and they do not require the DPL.

However, COAI said as e-commerce portals are operating as online market place and hence are covered under the preview of Information Technology Act 2000 as intermediaries. As the purchaser needs to get the authorisation from DoT before purchasing any wireless equipment, “the online intermediaries need to ensure that these statutory requirements are fulfilled.”―Financial Express

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