The government and the mobile phone recycling industry have agreed to a charter that should prevent the sale of stolen mobile phone handsets.

Roughly 100,000 stolen UK mobile phone handsets are being sold every year in a business that is worth around £4 million. And because stolen mobile phones are blocked from use on UK networks, legitimate recycling firms are the ones doing the selling.

We're talking about the mobile phone recycling companies that you see advertised on day time TV (inbetween adverts for gold recycling, expensive loans and funeral pay plans.) Such companies ask people to send in their old mobiles in return for money.

The devices are subsequently resold in developing countries where the prevailing technology is not as sophisticated. The government has now made recycling firms agree to check handsets against the National Mobile Phone Register and report any stolen ones.

The national database is linked to the police database of mobiles reported stolen, a voluntary public register and the industry database of blocked mobiles. Where a stolen phone is discovered, the company will refuse to buy it and pass on the details to the police.

Ninety percent of mobile-phone recycling companies have agreed to the strategy.