A four-fold increase in the number of illegal electronic telecommunication equipment seized last year has been linked to the surge in people working from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
ew figures published by the telecoms regulator show 2,804 non-compliant devices were seized coming into the Republic by ComReg and Customs officials in the year to the end of June 2021 compared to 695 products the previous year. Nine out of 10 were Wi-Fi repeaters – devices designed to improve Wi-Fi coverage in a property – with many contained in large consignments.
“The exponential increase in the number of non-compliant Wi-Fi repeaters seized is likely as a result of the increase in home working, arising from the public health advice regarding the Covid-19 pandemic,” ComReg said.
The regulator pointed out that an increasing number of consumers now order cheap electronics directly from outside the EU as a result of the growth of e-commerce.
There was also a tenfold increase in the number of non-compliant devices removed from online platforms last year as ComReg revealed it engages in “consistent and strategic monitoring” of sites including Amazon, Done Deal, Alibaba, eBay, AliExpress and Wish.
The latest figures show ComReg arranged to have 5,089 pieces of equipment, including many mobile phone boosters, removed from websites last year compared to 58 the previous year.
The regulator said the majority of its actions had arisen after it had established contact with many of these companies for reporting devices that can interfere with radio signals.
“These new relationships have been beneficial in removing over 5,000 non-compliant products from the Irish marketplace,” it added.
ComReg said a new reporting portal operated by eBay has resulted in 320 devices being removed from the site.
The regulator said it had recently started work on the establishment of a Product Safety Unit as an estimated 57 million connected devices will be in use here by 2022.
Meanwhile, ComReg also reported 94 reports of harmful interference to radio signals in the 12 months to June – down from 115 the previous year – with the majority coming from mobile network operators. In one case, it was established that a large industrial microwave oven operating unlawfully in a certain frequency band at a food processing plant in Kildare was responsible for blocking mobile phone signals.
Mobile phone boosters – as opposed to repeaters which do not interfere with other devices – were found to be the source of almost two-thirds of complaints and are strictly illegal, ComReg said.