Spanish mobile operators last night cut off an estimated three to four million pre-pay mobile phones whose owners had not followed government instructions to register their devices.
The mandatory scheme - in which all pre-pay mobiles have to be assigned to an ID document - was a reaction to the terrorist attacks of 11 March 2004, where the perpetrators used such phones to activate bombs on several trains in Madrid, killing 191.
As of this morning, anyone who didn't toe the line will, when they try to make a call, be met with a recorded message telling them their number's up. Incoming calls are blocked too, although the phones will still be able to access the 112 emergency number.
Given the scale of the non-compliance, the government has agreed with Telefónica, Vodafone and Orange to give punters another six months to cough their details. The operators will reconnect the phone and reimburse any lost credit when owners do the right thing.
According to El País, the pre-pay total on all the disconnected phones could be around €25m. Those who don't take the second chance to register their phone within six months, either by contacting their operator direct or in a mobile phone retail outlet, will definitively lose both the number and any outstanding credit. ®