Mobile Phone Purchases in Lebanon To Be Regulated Starting June 1st, 2013

The day we have all been dreading is upon us.

Are you one of those people who ridiculed that $1500 price tag for the iPhone 5 when it was released as you should, bought one on your own from abroad and had a friend bring it over with them and bypass our ridiculous custom fees? Well, you lucked out.

As of June 1st, 2013 that option may not be available to you anymore as part of a new decree to fight phone counterfeits on the Lebanese market which do not possess a true IMEI number (link). Your phone number will have to be registered to your phone’s IMEI number in order for you to get service.

So unless you’re a tourist coming into the country and roaming, you’ll have to pay custom fees on your phone in order to have its IMEI registered and use it on Lebanon’s dismal phone networks: alfa and touch.

What will become even more complicated is you selling your used phone to someone when you want to buy a newer one. If you want to do so, you’ll have to have that phone’s IMEI unregistered to your phone number first, a process they say will happen through texts with your mobile operator or online.

When you buy your new phone, you’ll have a period of 3 months to register it with your carrier. In order to do so, you are asked to keep your purchase receipt.

You can only change 3 phones in 6 months. I can already hear millionaires weeping in sadness.

These new regulations, if applied, are absolutely absurd. A few questions at the top of my head are the following:

  1. Is the best possible way to fight counterfeits across the Lebanese market making it a nightmare for every Lebanese out there to buy and sell mobile phones, a process that should be very straightforward?
  2. Does it make sense to enforce regulations on phones across the board this way when some major smartphone companies, as an example Apple, have yet to officially release their phone in the country and customers have to purchase them at near-black market prices?
  3. What if someone bought their phone abroad as a personal purchase and want to use it here? Do they seriously want us to worry about something other than have the LTE frequencies match and the phone be unlocked? Are we supposed to pay custom fees on every single electronic purchase we make just because it’s the best way to fight those knock-off iPhones and Galaxy S?
  4. How reasonable is it to ask for the nearly 2-million Lebanese who are in possession of phones that don’t even need to be smart to go register them based on a number most of those Lebanese don’t know exist? What happens to those who fail to have their phones registered on September 1st, 2013 – 3 months after the regulations go into effect?
  5. Did anyone  go over the intricate details of this and ask themselves if it’s remotely plausible? How many countries across the world apply this? A google search pointed to India only.

This feels oddly extensive of another decree that took place a few months ago (link) that required Lebanese to go register their phone numbers. Big brother seems to want to watch you even further.

How about we look up to countries where the telecom sector is flourishing and see the steps they’re making in fighting those fake phones and sustain their networks first?

Even so, does a decree on this magnitude even sound reasonable in a country that can’t even manage to apply a simple smoking ban?


30 thoughts on “Mobile Phone Purchases in Lebanon To Be Regulated Starting June 1st, 2013

  1. I’m no political aficionado, so correct if I’m wrong, and please excuse my ignorance in the matter, but isn’t this sort of a socialist, or communist policy?

    • No it doesn’t. Those pertain more to private property and wealth than to such regulations.
      I don’t know what this fits under but it has a flair of totalitarian to it.

    • No, just a poor way of dealing with a relatively “minor” problem, given the facts we live in a rather bloody fail country. A communist or socialist approach would rather bang the freedom of acts related to the actual ownership of the phone such as trading capabilities…

  2. WTF! Who figured this was a good idea?
    Of course they’ll apply this, it won’t “bother” people much like smoking ban did and money money money,

  3. > How reasonable is it to ask for the nearly 2-million Lebanese

    Not defending the stupid new law, just explaining how it works… None of the two million Lebanese people will have to register their current phones, anything currently being used on the network will keep working without any change.

    Only NEW phones purchased from outside lebanon will have to be registered by individuals ( which completely sucks) but for most Lebanese who buy their phones form Lebanon they will keep doing the same except they will probably have to pay more since no more black market. ( at least in theory ) as their supplier will have registered the phones for them at the customs.

    PS: They have the same system in turkey and everyone keeps complaining about how stupid and useless it is.

    • Yeah the minister later on clarified this. But still, does the basis of the law remotely make sense? Is this the best way they could come up with to fight counterfeits? And if current users don’t have to register their phones, doesn’t that mean current counterfeits will keep on working on the Lebanese markets?

      The whole point of this, as I see it, is to have an extra source income for the government and exert more control: who’s calling who from which phone. Can you imagine the possibilities?

    • How so? By forcing people to opt in for contracts via making standalone phone purchases more expensive?

      I don’t know. I don’t think the point behind this is to change how the market buys phone but to bring in more money and control.

    • Yeah of course you can still buy a phone from abroad but will they make you pay necessary custom fees when you go register it?
      Based on the Arabic article. It sounds like they will.

      • I don’t think you will, why would he specify three phones per traveler if you’re going to pay custom fees anyway? It’s the same as buying any device from abroad: you don’t pay anything unless you buy above a certain quantity.

        • Countries abroad don’t have such regulations on IMEI. And the way I got the 3 phones-6m month thing is that you are not allowed to change more than 3 phones (have 3 different IMEI) associated with your phone number in a 6 month window.

  4. so what does this mean for people like myself who are coming into lebanon in july… will i have to register my phone to use it there?

  5. This procedure has been going on in tutkey for years.
    If the process here hapens online or by sms than its a blessing. In turkey you have to go to the tax office pay. Get a receipt then take it to your provider and wait 24 to 48 hours to get it activated. The grace period before registration varies between 3 and 7 days. So its fine. At least security will be able to monitor phones in a better way

  6. A lot of misconceptions. I urge you to read the Q&A on No private owner of phone has to register. All phones currently working on the network will continue to work normally. This procedure applies to importers only and to people buying their phone abroad. After 15th May to protect yourself when buying a phone in Lebanon just put the Sim card in and try it before paying.
    This procedure was decided by the council of ministers to stop smuggling and will increase treasury revenues by 60 million dollars a year. Of course if didn’t have a 60 billion dollars debt or strong customs we wouldn’t need it. All the best, N

  7. Whoever wrote that text, first, just for ur info there is 3 million+ phone users in lebanon not 2 m.
    Second that law is to fight the smugglers,
    Its not logic that the authorized distibutors pay all the taxes and the outlaw people only pay the mobile cost without any tax,
    + ur country will benefit from this law a huge income: 1.6 BILLION $/YEAR is it enough??
    And abt the countries that apply this law, ur research is very wrong dear again, because turkey did that arround 5 yrs ago and lots of countries so its not only for india.

  8. Very well written…
    So what does a person that is going to Lebanon for two weeks do with an already unlocked device in Canada?

  9. Time and time again, I realize that Lebanese are (generally) no where as smart as they think they are. Most are crooks, and are even lousy at being so as they usually succeed only in their country and have built an awful reputation for themselves abroad! It’s enough to see how messed up this country is! And how impossible it is to ever recover as long as it is in the hands of its own people! I believe the last time it was civilized is when it was in the hands of the French! A pity though! If only they were half as intelligent as they thought they were, if only they’d be calm, if only they’d admit to themselves that they are NOT God’s gift to man kind! If only they’d stop being so aggressive and racist, and if only they get along and become civilized…. they’d have the potential to be the best Arab country in the world! If not even the best country in the region!


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