Mobile phone companies have pledged that they will cut off 80 per cent of stolen handsets within 48 hours of thefts being reported by customers.
Under a new industry charter, Britain's mobile phone networks will be measured on how quickly they act to disenable stolen phones, with details of their performance to be published in an annual report.
The Mobile Industry Crime Action Forum (Micaf), which has launched the initiative alongside mobile phone providers, said that in most current cases, snatched handsets were blocked by companies within 24 to 36 hours of being reported stolen.
Micaf chairman Jack Wraith told the BBC that under existing arrangements, mobile phone companies could not be held accountable for the amount of time it takes them to block stolen handsets.
Commenting on the new pledge made by mobile phone providers, Mr Wraith said: "They are now answerable and they will get named and shamed by us if they fail to stick to the charter."
He added that the new industry code had also been introduced in a bid to deter people from buying stolen mobile phone handsets.
Welcoming the announcement, home secretary John Reid said he hoped the scheme would be the "first large step forward" in combating the growth in thefts of modern technological equipment.
An eight per cent rise in robberies last year is thought to be linked to the increasing demand for mobile phones and other electronics such as MP3 players, which are particularly attractive to thieves.
The home secretary, who has pledged to provide £1.35 million in funding for a specialist national phone crime unit, said of the new mobile industry code: "The message to the criminals is that mobile phone theft is now a useless occupation, because the handsets themselves will be useless within a very short period of time.
"If you steal mobiles you will not be able to sell them."
Mr Reid added that he was hopeful the action of the mobile phone networks would establish the "possibility of doing something similar with more sophisticated equipment in due course".