The Lebanese Government Doesn’t Want You To Get iPhones

iPhone 5C and 5S

It wasn’t enough for Lebanon’s iPhone users had to deal with the device not being officially released by Apple in the country yet with exorbitant prices and no customer service for their device. Starting in June, regulations have made getting their device into the country harder than ever.

The iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C were released recently around the world to massive customer reception. Their prices in Lebanon, however, are about $1100 for the 16GB version of the iPhone 5S and $720 for the 16GB version of the 5C. To compare, the 16GB version of the iPhone 5S in the United States is $649 whilst the same version of the 5C retails at $549.

Many Lebanese, like yours truly, refuse to succumb to these black market prices and a government which couldn’t give a rat’s ass as long as it’s making enough money for the people running it to remain afloat but still convince everyone that their beloved regulations are in our best interest. Therefore, we buy our devices from abroad and wait for someone to bring them into the country.

Prior to June 2013, that process was as simple as it gets. The phone would come in, we’d unbox it, put it our simcards and we’d be up in running in no time. Today, getting the phone into a state of functionality means getting it registered by a procedure that is retarded but still somehow makes sense for those in governance. Why so? Because they want to take back the millions lost through phone smugglings. How so? By screwing every Lebanese over in the process both bureaucratically and financially.

According to Twitter user Wissam Chidiak, @Fletchergull, the iPhones 5S and 5C don’t get the same treatment that other phones in the market do. Their price tag wasn’t enough, so our government is making it even harder to get an iPhone in Lebanon.

Say you got an iPhone 5S from the United States and wanted to bring it into Lebanon, your passport must not have any other phone registered to it in the past 6 months in order to get the phone working on Lebanese networks. The iPhone 5S or 5C, in order to be registered, take up all 3 phone spots that you are allowed on your passport for a 6 months duration. You won’t be allowed to bring in any other phone to the country if you’ve traveled within that timezone.

Furthermore, the passport being used to get the phone up and running on Lebanese networks must not have entered the country prior to September 24th. The iPhone 5S and 5C were launched on September 20th. Technically, a Lebanese could have had them in the country by the 21st. He wouldn’t have been able to get them registered, however, because that’s what our telecom ministry wants.

Mr. Chidiac has contacted both alfa and Touch, Lebanon’s only telecom operators, who confirmed on separate occasions that the aforementioned regulations are, indeed, true. They were adamant, however, that those regulations are not operator-based and are entirely enforced by the telecom ministry. Chidiac has also tried to contact minister Sehnaoui on Twitter via direct messages, which the minister couldn’t not have read, public mentions of those direct messages which anyone could read. The minister has failed to reply.

You could say that these regulations are in place given that the devices are new and all. But even that argument runs moot with our government because other newer devices do not suffer from the same treatment. Samsung’s Note 3, which was released on September 25th – 5 days after the new iPhones, can be registered with passports that have entered the country prior to the phone’s release. It also takes up only one phone slot out of the three you are allowed. Perhaps our telecom ministry wants to gradually but surely enforce one brand upon the Lebanese population simply due to availability and ease of access?

Our telecom ministry is proud of the advancements that have taken place recently, as is their right, despite some of those achievements having a big “however” plastered all across them – the 4G network comes to mind. At the rate we’re going however, I’m longing for the day when I was able to simply pop in a sim, get it to work then remove it and have my phone “liberated” as is, when my  freedom as a customer to buy whatever I wanted from wherever I wanted, within Lebanese law, was still cherished and not subject to demented, silly and retarded regulations that only serve to inflate the pockets of those benefiting from them. Those regulations, Mr. Sehnaoui, not the 4G network, will be your legacy when you’re a minister of telecom no more.


24 thoughts on “The Lebanese Government Doesn’t Want You To Get iPhones

  1. Those restrictions are ridiculous I agree, they basically want to stop people from getting three devices and selling them at a price cheaper than the Lebanese market price, knowing that it wouldn’t be that hard to find buyers.

    The iPhone 5S is being sold from 985$ for the 16G Grey model to 1785$ for the 64G Gold model. Now imagine you get the 64GB Gold model for 849$ from the apple store, or 3 for them, you can potentially make a handsome profit of up to 900$ per device.

    The government doesn’t want that. You’re supposed to buy it from local dealers and pay twice the price and receive no after care service. Ok?


    • it would be Ok if all mobile devices are treated equally without favoring one over the other…
      but in this case, they are making it extra hard for people to register iPhones while registering devices just as new (and even newer) are not as hard…


  2. Pingback: The | Thinking of owning an #iPhone5s / 5c in #Lebanon? read this:

  3. everyone must keep in mind that a Lebanese person is allowed to register up to 3 devices every 6 months for personal use… while a non-Lebanese may register 1 device every 6 months.
    so if anyone is coming from the US or Canada as an example, try using the lebanese passport 😉


    • Lebanese are allowed to register 3 devices every six months… except for iPhones!
      they are allowed to register 1 iPhone 5c/5s every six months, and you cannot register any other device iPhone or not with it…


    • Correction:
      A Lebanese is allowed to register up to three non-iPhone 5s/5c devices…
      an iPhone 5s/5c takes all three spots on a lebanese passport…
      while any other device, including the very new Note3 takes only one spot out of those three… 🙂


  4. WTF !!!! I was planning to use my entry on the 18th to register an iPhone that i will recieve in the next couple of days. Wow thank you Sehnaoui I wish we all could be “nouwweb” like you so we can afford phones and buy aircrafts with the money we steal you THIEVES!!!


  5. It’s definitely frustrating. I personally don’t know why people like iPhones so much but they have the right to choose and the government should not give further regulations for one model or two, just because they are worth more than the average.


  6. Pingback: This Website is Banned As Per The Lebanese Ministry of Telecommunications | A Separate State of Mind | A Lebanese Blog

  7. Heard a rumor that Sehnaoui landed himself a good deal with Samsung. Samsung initially ‘lobbyed’ to get that whole registration process ongoing and mandatory. Samsung is the company/agent holding exclusivity Samsung phones in the country whereas all other phones aren’t distributed by a sole agent. The difficulties pertaining to the registration of the new iPhones make this rumor more credible. Anyways, il n’y a pas de fumee sans feu and were the ministry of telecommunications truly interested in regulating the cellphone market, no procedure or rule or anything should make the end customer pay the hefty price. Let the amhaz, class & other outlets infamous for smuggled phones and other electronics do…


    • PS: MP Nicolas Sehnaoui has still not answered any of my questions,
      Not directly, not indirectly…

      And yes, I have heard that rumor too…
      But I thought it was just a rumor, till this incident occurred…


  8. Hello Elie,

    Thank you for raising these questions, I really appreciate the role of Bloggers in Lebanon and in its digital economy.

    I’d like to clear out that the only measure related to new phones taken by MOT is to forbid registry of new models with passport baring an entry date older than the international release date of the new models.

    This measure was adopted to prevent fraud. Contrary to rumors it was adopted on all brands not only on Apple.

    As for the IMEI registration procedure it was requested by Ministry of Finance and adopted by the Council of Ministers.

    Until now it has multiplied the customs proceeds by 10.


    • Your eminence,
      Those rumors are based on my interrogations to both alfa and touch customer service AND information desks…

      My questions were clear:
      1- are the one device per passport rules applied to any devices other than 5s and 5c?
      2- IF I get a note3 that was released on the 25th of September, can I register it with a passport that was stamped on the 13th of September?
      3- can I register three note3 devices on a single passport?

      The answers from both companies were:
      1- only the iPhone 5s and 5c have this rule, the rest of the phone don’t… Because they are new phones…
      And when I add that note3 was released after the iPhone 5s/5c, they said the orders we got are only for the iPhones…
      2- you can register a note3 on a passport stamped on the 13th of September, no order came to ban such a thing…
      And when I say: but the phone was released on the 25th, the answer was: we got no order to ban such a registry…
      3- yes you can, as long as no other phones are registered to that passport, or Else you can register with the remaining slots… And if you registered a 5s/5c with that passport then no you cannot register a note3 because the iPhone takes all three spots…

      I could provide you with dates I passed and or called and asked in both companies and I have a few names of people who answered me…

      So the FACTS I stated are given by the companies that You gave the right to register phones…
      If THEY are spreading rumors, and YOU are avoiding to answer our interrogations…
      WHO are we supposed to ask?

      Wissam Chidiak


    • Furthermore your eminence…

      These are the DMs I sent you on twitter concerning this issue, with all the concerns a normal Lebanese apple user would face and have in Lebanon:

      And these are the 17 tweets I sent you ON the TL two days later:

      I understand you keep telling us you’re a busy MP, and that you are doing a gargantuan job when it comes to 3G and LTE integration in Lebanon, and that you are single handedly fighting people that are against you in the ministry of telecommunications and OGERO, “yaatik el Aafyeh”…
      But those concerns I expressed in those Direct Messages and in those Timeline tweets are real and they are very clear to favor companies like Samsung over Apple, and they make sure the price of Apple products remain higher than the acceptable in lebanon due to extra burdens you put, and therefore makes it easier for companies like Samsung to compete when it comes to the price…
      These concerns do put a big question mark when it comes to the regulations you have put, those regulations that favor companies like Samsung over Apple and helps raise Samsung’s Market share in comparison to Apple’s in Lebanon in an blatantly unfair way…

      The least you could’ve done (if you were too busy fighting the bad people) is appoint one of your assistants to answer those concerns I had, especially that I was VERY clear that both Lebanese mobile companies did throw the blame of such unfair and unequal treatment between devices on YOU…
      But you choosing to remain silent for all that time, made many consider that you either did not know what to answer or you had something to hide…

      I still URGE YOU to answer my questions, especially the following:

      1- WHY the stricter rules on Apple iPhone 5s/5c and the looser rules on the Note3?

      2- If as you are saying, the WHOLE target of such rules is to make sure the state gets the custom proceeds, WHY on earth can’t I grab that phone I purchased from abroad, take it to touch, alfa or the MoT and register it by paying those custom proceeds?
      Why should I go and beg to find someone who has a passport stamped on a certain date and who doesn’t have any device registered on his passport, to be able to register the iPhone 5s I bought from the states?

      I, as a Lebanese do appreciate all the work you are doing, but in this particular phone registry issue, I did have previous questions and concerns…. I did hear rumors about certain deals with certain companies… And I chose not to believe them…

      But that last iPhone issue which was a blatant case of double standards… And the way you decided to remain silent about all the question and concerns that were asked… Made me have second thoughts and start reconsidering that what I thought were conspiracy theories had in fact some truth in them…

      Wissam Chidiak


  9. Thank you Wissam for the info you provided. Sorry for not replying earlier, I check twitter as frequently as my time permits and try to answer all queries either directly or after checking with the team.

    Furthermore, these where not our instructions to the operators. I will investigate it personally asap.


    • Thank you for doing so sir,

      And thank you for working on clarifying any misinformation that the two companies have understood from the MoT and have been basing their registrations based on them ever since the iPhone 5s/5c’s more strict treatment was applied since last week of September till now…

      Thank you
      Wissam Chidiak…


  10. Thank you Wissam for the info you provided. Sorry for not replying earlier, I check twitter as frequently as my time permits and try to answer all queries either directly or after checking with the team.

    Furthermore, these were not our instructions to the operators. I will investigate it personally asap.


  11. Okkk question.. I just bought a 5s from canada but want to activate it and cant do so without a sim… So can i just put a sim in here… Use it.. And then put a lebanese sim in lebanon after i register it??


  12. Pingback: Thinking of owning an #iPhone5s / 5c in #Lebanon? read this: |

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