Box breakers target cheap dongles


Staff in retail stores claim in recent weeks the number of USB dongles being purchased by known box breakers has “rocketed” after the prices have been slashed.

Carphone Warehouse staff claim box breakers continue to buy handsets but have now started to target prepay dongles, with O2 models hit worst as its prices have dropped lowest.

Reports from several Carphone staffers suggests box breakers have purchased up to 20 prepay dongles in the course of a single day in recent weeks, despite strict rules on two per customer.

Carphone reduced its O2 prepay dongle price from £20 to £15 recently, but has since increased the price to £20 again. O2 is itself offering USB broadband dongles for half price when customers purchase a handset on prepay or post pay, instead of the standard £30.

One Carphone staffer said: “For us it seems to only be O2 dongles, which we assume is because of the price. Whatever it is, it has become big business for them and us.”

Handset unlocking companies claim demand to unlock dongles has increased in the past few months as a result of falling prices in retail stores and through distribution.

One unlocker said: “The dongle unlocking business is big. We see a lot of O2, T-Mobile and 3 dongles. Just yesterday I received an order for 30 T-Mobile dongles.”

A Carphone spokesperson said it had cracked down on the activity by monitoring customers’ prepay purchases.

“In order to mitigate the risk of box breaking, we limit the number of prepay connections a customer can have to two units per quarter and effectively monitor this by ensuring all customers validate their proof of identity with a chip and pin credit or debit card,” said a spokesman.

“We did see an increase in sales in this particular product but we attribute this to the strength of the deal, which was compelling.”

An O2 spokesperson said: “We haven’t seen an alarming rise in this for mobile broadband. We take this issue seriously and take the necessary precautions to stop people doing this.”