C'tee approves more cellphone industry reforms

Knesset committee approves an order that exempts vendors of mobile devices from having to obtain a trading license.

June 18, 2012 00:08
1 minute read.
A woman showing off her new iPhone 4s in NY

A woman showing off her new iPhone 4s in NY 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)

The Knesset Economics Committee voted Sunday to continue the recent wave of reforms in the cellphone industry, approving an order that exempts vendors of mobile devices from having to obtain a trading license.

The Communications Ministry’s order will come into effect 30 days after it is published.

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Cellphone subscription costs have plummeted since May, when market newcomers Golan Telecom and HOT Mobile launched all-inclusive NIS 99- and NIS 89-per-month plans, respectively. The three existing competitors, Orange, Cellcom and Pelaphone, all introduced their own low-cost plans following Golan’s and HOT’s entries.

Economics Committee chairman Carmel Shama-Hacohen (Likud) said it made no sense that subscription costs could drop so low while the cost of devices remain so high. While the rest of the world enjoys a large supply of cellular devices at low cost, Israeli consumers have been putting up with reduced supply and high costs, he said.

It was not the government’s business to inspect every cellphone that comes into the country, Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon said, adding that he hopes the measure will help increase the number of importers, expand the range of smartphones on offer to consumers and put an end to the situation in which buying a cellphone is “like purchasing an apartment.”

Certain cellphones are capable of interfering with the Iron-Dome rocket-defense system, Lt.-Col. Asher Biton, representing the IDF, told the committee. He asked how the Communications Ministry intends to prevent such devices from entering the country.

Kahlon replied that his ministry has delayed certain devices, including as Apple’s iPad, from being sold in the country several times in the past due to presumed security risks, but it became “a laughing stock” when it turned out such fears were unfounded.

“The military cannot delay everything,” he said. “We are a state that has an army, and not an army that has a state.”

Communications Ministry director-general Eden Bar-Tal said he would request Treasury approval to employ a team to supervise cellphones after they arrive in Israel.

Biton requested that Sunday’s order only come into effect after the supervisors begin their work. His suggestion was rejected by the committee.

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