Your garage door won’t close, the wifi isn’t working and the zapper is moody: check your USA-bought cell phone
Bern, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – Holiday gifts bought abroad might be cheaper or more interesting in the short run, but they can deliver a hex. The Swiss communications office, Ofcom, warns that if you are buying a cordless or wireless device outside Switzerland but plan to use it in this country or to offer it as a gift to a Swiss resident, be sure to check that it is compatible and can be used here.
Ofcom has been called on 180 times in the past 18 months to investigate disruptions to mobile phone networks, wifi systems, microphones, telecommand units and even garage doors. The main culprit is wireless and cordless devices bought in Canada and the US, responsible for the problem in 90 percent of the cases, which function on frequencies that are different from Swiss ones. Some of the devices are more surprising, such as a garden gnome whose blinking eyes caused radio reception interference and a toilet aeration electronic device that blocked television reception.
Drivers howled when babyphone blocked 150-car parking lot
Also culprits: devices such as babyphones, sound systems (stereos) and headphones as well as zappers that do not meet European norms, most of which have been manufactured in Asia. In one case cited by Ofcom, a cordless babyphone blocked a parking lot for 150 cars.
If your mobile suddenly stops working and you bought it in North America, incompatibility could be the explanation, according to the Bern office. A worse scenario unfolded in Ireland when air radio communications were disrupted for several weeks and the culprit turn out to be cell phones designed for the Asian market whose range was several kilometres.
Radio equipment bought in other countries often uses different frequencies from Swiss ones, which can cause interference.
Check the label for CE compatibility, instructions for Swiss use
Ofcom says it spends an average of 18 hours on each case of interference investigated and the number of cases is growing. It recommends that consumers check devices for CE labels, and look in particular for notices in the operating instructions that they are not for use in Switzerland, sometimes the case with radios, for example.
Some equipment could require a license from Ofcom, which is responsible for interference prevention and monitoring. As part of this job its staff checks devices coming into the country and devices sold online. But consumers will have to do their bit to avoid future interference in their own homes and the neighbourhood around them, says Ofcom, noting that devices bought through eBay or Ricardo or second-hand at garage sales or through social networks are a gamble because it’s harder to check the original documents for compatability.