EghtesadOnline: Following the launch of the Mobile Registry Scheme in December 2017, its legal loopholes have allowed opportunists to continue smuggling mobile phones into Iran.
The most recent violation surfaced earlier this week when government officials released a statement published on Hamta, a website and online database that works as the backbone of the scheme, Peivast reported.
The statement noted that from Aug. 26 to Sept. 19, some 30,000 cellphones, which were registered illegally, most probably using travelers' information, have been identified from the networks of local operators.
With the aim of discouraging cellphone smuggling, the Information and Communication Technologies Ministry, Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration, Communications Regulatory Authority and the Industries Ministry created the Mobile Registry Scheme to prevent local operators from offering services to contraband phones, Financial Tribune reported.
However, one of the weak points of the scheme is that incoming travelers could bring a single handset into Iran.
As per the scheme, incoming passengers should not carry more than one cellphone and need to pay a fee at the port of entry to register the phone. Travelers, including expats visiting home, foreign tourists and businesspersons, are exempt from the new rules for 30 days from the date of arrival.
The ICT Ministry says irregularities have been detected in the registry information of 30,000 imported mobile phones, which show the devices had been smuggled and registered with the travel documents of travelers without them being informed about it.
Hamidreza Dehqani-Nia, one of the scheme's executive officials, explained that the registration of the detected devices has not been canceled yet.
"The ICT ministry has warned owners of the devices with a text message, calling them to visit the provincial offices of the Industries Ministry with their ID cards and travel documents to confirm their device's registration," he told ISNA.
Dehqani-Nia said that in case the legal registration of the devices is disproved, they will be countermanded.
Despite officials' clarification, the story has pushed the domestic mobile phone market into turmoil.
Upon receiving the warning message, agitated customers rushed to the mobile retailers, requesting a refund.
Sellers, on the other hand, claim that they have gone through all the legal procedures and paid the price for the registration of the cellphones.
One of the retailers in Tehran's Alaeddin Shopping Mall says, "The number of imported mobile phones is way higher than what has been announced. The detection might have been done randomly among the cellphones."
He added that some people willingly and in exchange for a fee allowed importers to use their travel documents to pay the tax and register a mobile phone under their name.
Another dealer says, “For bringing a cellphone worth 100 million rials [$870] importers need to pay 18 million rials [$156] in custom duties and taxes. This is while travelers can register the same handset by paying only 1.8 million rials [$15.6].”
ICT Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi told ISNA that the gap can create disruptions in the proper implementation of the scheme.
On Saturday and in protest to the disruptions, mobile retailers in Tehran went on strike for a few hours. However, after the officials promised to resolve the issue, they resumed their normal activities.
In an effort to alleviate the fraught situation, the head of Tehran Telecom Traders Union has initiated talks with officials, appealing for the cancellation of the recent decision.
Mehdi Mohebbi also told Peivast that TTU has called the government to ignore the violations and declare the 30,000 detected cellphones as legally registered.
"Instead, TTU vows to closely monitor the offenders and prevent them from misusing the general public's ID information for registration again," he added.
Mohebbi noted that the government is yet to announce its decision over the issue.