Cinema owners in Dublin have come under fire for stopping customers from receiving calls on their mobiles in the middle of a movie.
Ireland’s communications regulator told bosses at Mark Anderson, the company that owns the Savoy cinema, they were breaking the law after they installed a signal blocker.
Mark Anderson would have been penalised with a hefty fine – or seen employees facing a jail sentence – if they had not removed the blocking device immediately.
Ward Anderson, which owns 200 of Ireland’s cinemas, installed the signal blocker after the disruption caused by people talking or receiving text messages became a “problem”.
“(It was) an increasing, persistent problem,” said Mark Anderson, the chain’s operations manager.
Mr Anderson said the Savoy got a visit from two inspectors from Ireland’s communications regulator, or ComReg, after a local paper published a story about the blocker.
“They told us to cease and desist,” he said. “The possibility of a fine and jail time got us to decide to remove the unit.”
Mr Anderson was told it was illegal to have a blocker, let alone put one into operation. The offence carries a fine of up to 25,000 euros (£17,400) or a maximum prison sentence of a year. “It has been disposed of, essentially thrown in the bin,” Mr Anderson said. “I am disappointed. I think it is an injustice not only to the Savoy but to patrons of cinemas all around the country.”
No one had lodged a complaint to ComReg. Ward Anderson spent £499 to import the signal blocker from the US to the Savoy, its flagship cinema in Ireland. The blocker works by emitting a low-power signal that occupies the broadcasting spectrum used by mobile phone operators. It keeps out calls within a 30m (100 ft) range.