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EghtesadOnline: As the government plan for curbing cellphone smuggling gradually goes into full swing, people are being warned regularly by authorities that at the time of purchase they should personally check whether the handset entered the country through legal channels.

In a bid to curb smuggling the Telecom Ministry, Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration, the Communication Regulatory Authority and the Industries Ministry introduced a scheme they call “Mobile Registry” according to which local operators are barred from offering services to contraband phones. After more than a decade delay in implementing the scheme, its initial phase was launched in mid-October 2017.

“So far 6,000 contraband phones that were sold have been disconnected from local operators’ network,” News website ICTNA quoted the head of Tehran Telecom Traders Union as saying.

Mehdi Mohebi said, “The access of these phones to the local network has been banned permanently. All the handsets purchased after Dec. 5, 2017, are affected by the scheme.”

According to Financial Tribune, he says “with the new scheme authorities will be able to better regulate the market.” For instance, in Iran mobile phone dealers seldom offer after sales services to customers and charge them extra for such services. As per law, now importers are obliged to also offer after sales services.

The ICT head at the Headquarters to Combat Smuggling of Goods and Foreign Exchange Hamidreza Dehqaninia cautioned users against purchasing contraband cellphones. “At the time of purchase, personally check whether or not the phone has entered the country legally. The procedure is easy and free of charge.”

Buyers should insert their SIM card into the new handset and send a text message to 7777 or dial the following Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) code on their dial pad: *7777#. In a few seconds they receive a text message on the handset which determines whether it is contraband.

 Exercising Caution

He said avaricious shopkeepers charge customers for such a simple procedure. There are reports that after receiving the message indicating the phone is contraband there are shopkeepers who have lied to customers over the matter. “Better to be cautious, always conduct the check yourselves.”

Dehqaninia adds that according to a government rule, in case someone has purchased a mobile phone without noticing it is contraband and it gets disconnected from the network, the seller must replace it with a new and registered handset.

If a retailer fails to comply with the rule, the customer can file a complaint with one of the following entities: Ministry of Industries (which oversees imports), the ‘Tazirat’ organization (a judiciary-affiliated ombudsman dealing with trade offenses) or the Consumers and Producers Protection Organization.

As for tourists, they are required to register their phones if they want to stay in Iran for more than 30 days and use SIMs sold by local operators. However, Dehqaninia notes, “Most travelers rather use roaming services instead of buying SIMs sold by Iranian operators.” For using roaming services the handset is not required to be registered.

Travelers who have brought a handset with them into Iran but were not informed about the scheme and now want to register the phone should visit a customs administration office at one of the airports in the country and pay the import tariff.

In a bid to contain the market shock following the launching of the scheme, its implementation has been phased. On Jan. 4 functioning contraband iPhones were disconnected. The 6,000 smuggled phones mentioned in this report that were disconnected were Apple products.

In the next phase access of smuggled Google, BlackBerry and Motorola phones to the local network will be banned. By the end of the current fiscal (March), all major mobile phone brands will be subject to the new rules.

The impact of the registry scheme is not limited to handsets now rendered useless. According to market insiders, since the scheme was launched mobile phone prices jumped 20-35%. For flagship handsets, the rise is in the range of $200 to $300 a piece.


Iran Cellphone Smuggling Iran Cellphone Buyers