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Baltimore County Bans ecoATM

P. Kenneth Burns / WYPR

The Baltimore County Council unanimously approved Tuesday a ban on those mall kiosks that pay cash for used cell phones, called automated purchasing machines, or APMs. The ban is expected to take effect in April.

EcoATM, the only company in the country in the APM business, said the action placed politics ahead of public safety.

“[The ban] will give legitimate sellers of phones no choice but to sell their used phones to unregulated, unmonitored underground buyers where police have no visibility,” said ecoATM spokesman Ryan Kuder. He said the ban is bad for consumers and police, but good for thieves.

But Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson said the legislation will stymie cell phone thieves. Police reported 300 cell phone theft cases in 2013.

“We’re confident that this legislation will help reduce the number of crimes involving cell phones by taking cash out of the equation,” said Johnson.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz proposed the ban as well as a measure to require the licensing of dealers who buy used cell phones and prohibit cash payments for devices. That passed unanimously as well. Dealers have until April 16 to obtain a license.

Kamenetz said the county is safer as a result of the council’s approval. 

“The manner in which the council and administration cooperated with Chief Johnson on this legislation reminds the people of Baltimore County that different branches of government can work together to accomplish important things,” he said.

Proposals to regulate APMs in Maryland remain before a committee in the General Assembly.  They would not reverse this or a similar ban passed in Baltimore City last year.