Mobile phone agents dispute Ministry decision. IMEI increased revenues by six times - Lebanon

Mobile phone agents dispute
Ministry decision
IMEI increased revenues by six times
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The Association of Mobile Phone Agents opposed the cancellation of Decree 9474 on the mandatory registration of the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI). The Ministry of Telecommunication (MoT) announced the cancellation decision on April 28, annulling a measure taken by the former minister.

Minister Boutros Harb said: “This is the only country in the world besides Turkey that has this regulation. The financial gains obtained through registration are offset by losses in income due to roaming charges which are a straight loss to the State, since most visitors opt to use roaming rather than register their phones."”

The Association said that the IMEI registration positively affected the trade of mobile phones.

Based on the Customs figures (code 85.17.12 and 85.17.13), imports of mobile phones declared at Customs grew nearly ten times within six and half months of the activation of the Decree 9474. Declared imported phones in 2012 were nearly 148,000 units and grew to become nearly 1.3 million in 2013. This growth was coupled with an increase in public revenues. The value of legally imported phones amounted to around $31 million in 2012, and jumped to $193 million in 2013, according to the association.

Government revenues are split into custom duty taxes of five percent and ten percent VAT.

Collected Customs duties reached $9.6 million in 2013, which is equal to around six times the duties collected in 2012 ($1.5 million). Customs duties collected during the first two months of 2014 were $1.6 million, which is equivalent to all revenues in 2012. VAT collected in 2013 was $20.2 million. This figure equals around six times the tax collected in 2012 ($3.2 million).

Georges Azar, Group Strategy Director at Samsung CTC said that the figures brought by the ministry disregarded the ten percent VAT. “This tax should not be disregarded because importers of smuggled phones do not pay this tax. Goods are sold through channels that do not declare VAT.”

The Association said that the increase in the prices of mobile devices is normal with the mandatory IMEI registration, as it is the typical price of an imported device.

According to importers, the IMEI registration decree gave local consumers authentic products with manufacturers’ warranty. Security wise, the decree led to a unified database of users which facilitates any tracking of criminals.

The ministry said that it will soon issue a press release to refute the claims of importers.

Reported by Rana Freifer
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Date Posted: May 06, 2014