The Consumer Lawyer

Don’t hijack your neighbour’s Wi-Fi

Most homes now have broadband with wireless (“Wi-Fi”) connections, but have you ever been cheeky and connected to your neighbour’s Wi-Fi, perhaps because it is faster than yours? If so, you might not do it again after reading Robert’s story.

Robert from Portsmouth moved into his new house in October 2018. Within the first two weeks he ran into issues with his neighbour as they had a dispute about the fence dividing their gardens. This ran on for months and got very heated and Robert reports that he had the original ‘neighbour from hell’. Robert then consulted a solicitor who advised him that he was completely in the right in relation to the dispute. By February 2019 the dispute had been resolved, with Robert’s neighbour backing down. Robert thought that the issue was finally resolved and that he could now live in peace, but how wrong he was. At the end of February 2019 he was asked to attend a voluntary police interview in relation to his broadband. Robert was confused by this as he did not have broadband. He was then interviewed and all became clear. Whilst Robert did not have broadband, he regularly logged in to his neighbour’s Wi-Fi via his mobile phone, thus using his neighbour’s broadband connection. Somehow his neighbour found about this, and reported Robert to the Police. Most readers will now be thinking that Robert will have simply got a slap on the wrist, but this is not the case. It seems that the Police are taking the matter seriously and Robert faces prosecution!

The Law

Using a neighbour’s unsecure Wi-Fi connection, without their knowledge is known as ‘piggybacking’. It is a criminal offence and could lead to criminal charges under the Computer Misuse Act 1990, or the Communications Act 2003. This is actually a serious offence and should therefore make you think twice about using your neighbour’s Wi-Fi without their permission.

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