indianmobile.jpgThe game is up for China's copycat phone makers — at least in India.

The Indian Cellular Association maintains that some of the cheap copycat phones imported from China are potentially unsafe because they use faulty batteries that can explode.

But the Indian government is also worried about the role these cheap phones can play in aiding terrorism.

Many of the phones imported from China do not have IMEI numbers — a 15-digit code unique to each phone — and so are difficult to trace.

Last month, the government ordered mobile phone operators not to give new connections to users of such handsets. The Directorate General of Foreign Trade also said that import of such mobile handsets would be banned indefinitely.

The ICA estimates that of the 4m-5m handsets imported each month from China up to one third are cheap replicas produced by small shops in southern China.

These copycat phones carry all or most of the features of the pricier handsets and are sold in the grey market without an invoice or warranty, at prices between $60 and $120. They have found a ready market among India's rural and poorer urban consumers who want a stylish phone and connectivity at cheaper cost.

India has become the biggest export market for China's copycat phones and the clampdown comes at a time when India is seeking to encourage more home-grown manufacturing of mobile phones. Almost 105m handsets were made in India last year and ICA wants to increase that to 250m by 2011, which would make India the world's second largest manufacturer of phones after China.

This is just the latest in a long line of safety scares concerning Made-in-China products. The food scares, understandably, attract most concern and outrage in the west even though most of the victims have been in China. In a long-overdue attempt to address this problem, a new food safety law came into effect last month – more in this China Sourcing Blog article.

The international outcry that that surrounded Mattel's massive recall of Chinese toys in 2007 led China to promise to tighten up on lax standards and even laxer inspection procedures for a wide range of manufactured goods destined for export markets.

But China also said foreign buyers should also take responsibility for product safety and EngagingChina would argue that is certainly the case if you are importing copycat cellphones from China.

Manufacturers that have no respect for the intellectual property of the brand-name products they copy are likely to have an equally cavalier attitude to product safety and quality control. Caveat Emptor.

More safety scares stories here.

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