Cheap smartphones: Australia’s non-compliant mobile phone crisis

Cheap smartphones: Australia’s non-compliant mobile phone crisis

August 24, 2019 Off By administrator

The boss of the country’s third-largest mobile phone company has launched an extraordinary attack on a rival operator he claims is selling cut-price handsets that could pose a health and safety risk — but the competitor says the concerns are “baseless and untrue”.

Alcatel Mobile regional managing director Sam Skontos has called on the Australian Communications and Media Authority, which regulates mobile phones and enforces required standards under Australian law, to conduct an audit of Mintt Mobile.

The online retailer earlier this month launched with five smartphones ranging from $179 to $399, having previously operated in Papua New Guinea. Mr Skontos says Mintt has refused to produce the technical testing reports that would prove its devices meet Australian standards.

Specifically, he wants to see Mintt’s SAR reports. SAR, or specific absorption rate, measures the absorption rate of electromagnetic energy into the body. In Australia, mobile phones must be under two watts per kilogram.

“It costs me in the order of $300,000 to $400,000 to make a product compliant to Australian standards, for every model,” Mr Skontos said. “As you can imagine, if a product comes in that’s not compliant and selling direct online to the consumer, they have an added price advantage.”

Mr Skontos added, “We know these guys from PNG, there is a massive difference between the PNG market and the Australian market. If it were as simple as starting a website everyone would do it. I’m not going to spend $300,000 getting a test done on them, but I would hope the authorities do an audit.”

Mintt spokesman Murdo McRae said, “We are happy to clear up any misconceptions Alcatel have which are completely baseless. I would add that we are not required to hand out our test reports to a news outlet. Only to ACMA if requested. This kind of baseless accusation is inflammatory and completely untrue.”

Mr McRae said “these days overseas testing is allowed” under Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Telecommunications Working Group Mutual Recognition Arrangement between China and Australia.

Under the current regime, ACMA does not certify mobile phones prior to sale. Rather, suppliers are required to label the handset with a Regulatory Compliance Mark (RCM) and register on a national supplier database.

ACMA periodically audits mobile phone suppliers to test their compliance — the last audit was conducted the 2017-18 financial year. Mintt Mobile has not been audited by ACMA as it only began operating this month.

“All our phones have the RCM and CE approval and we are in possession of all test documents including SAR test reports,” Mr McRae said. “I might add our SAR results are far under the statutory requirements for Australia. All products currently available in Australia are registered on the (Electrical Regulatory Authorities Council) database.”

That hasn’t satisfied Mr Skontos, who says SAR values for Mintt phones are not available anywhere — on the…

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