Measures first proposed in February to end anonymous prepaid cell phone cards in Greece were set to take effect at the end of July 2009, along with a 12 percent tax on September 15 and higher monthly subscriber rates.
However, the registration of Greek SIM cards was stalled due to political bickering and mobile/cell phone companies refusing to cooperate. After the government changeover on October 5, it was decided this law would be upheld and phone companies started implementation November 8, 2009.
If you currently have a prepaid Greek SIM card or plan to use one while in Greece, go to “Prepaid cell/mobile phones in Greece.”
* Article last updated January 1, 2011
Original announcement from end of May
Current users of prepaid cell phone cards will be required to convert to a contract (syndesi) or can keep a prepaid plan by submitting an application to their provider with personal details, including: Name, address, proof of AFM (Greek tax number) and Greek ID or passport. Non-EU citizens living in Greece will be required to show a residence permit or other document as proof they are legally residing in Greece. The exact procedure will vary according to provider, and Parliament has instructed providers to not charge a fee.
The deadline to convert is June 30, 2010. Those failing to comply during the one-year transition period will have their SIM cards disabled on July 30, 2010.
Prepaid SIM cards for new consumers will still be sold at all the usual places but can only be activated by registering at a store run by providers and their authorized partners. Residents will be asked for the same information listed above; short-term visitors and tourists will be asked for name, address and passport.
Recharge cards will continue to be used as normal and widely available at kiosks, post offices, supermarkets, neighborhood stores and other outlets.
There are 13.5 million anonymous prepaid numbers used by an estimated 6.5 million Greeks and 1.5 million immigrants, but only 9 million are in service. All future prepaid SIM cards will have a unique code that identifies the user, so theft should be reported immediately to deactivate it.
The issue of ending anonymity was debated after notorious criminal Vassilis Palaiokostas staged a repeat prison break with help from the outside using prepaid cell phones. Although the aim is to reduce crime and protect the general public from extortion and harassing phone calls, the measure immediately came under fire by those objecting to invasion of privacy since the government will be granted to access to all information; and cell phone providers protesting the cost of conversion and a potential 20-30 percent decrease in sales when those preferring anonymity find alternative ways of communicating.
Other countries such as Australia, Germany, France, Slovenia, Switzerland, India and Norway already require the disclosure of personal details to use prepaid cell phone cards. There is also EU legislation that prohibits anonymous phone services in some member states.
On July 1, the mobile telephony union stated their objection to the end of July kick-off, saying they needed 3-4 months to prepare for the changeover. Ironically, they also said that a one year wasn’t enough to convert millions of users.
New rates and phone tax
Cell phone service providers raised rates up to 50 percent (.20 to 20 euros/month) for subscribers, and the government levied a 12 percent tax on prepaid cell phone rates to secure an estimated 3.5 billion euros in revenue for the 2009-2010 budget.
In addition to raising revenue for the government budget, it is projected that monthly subscriber rates were raised to compensate for conversion away from an anonymous system and the cost of doing business in 2009. According to stats, the average cell phone user now talks 30 percent more but spends less, which will result in a 10 percent reduction of revenue for mobile telephone providers.
The 12 percent tax assessed on prepaid cell phone service is part of a larger package that also imposes an up to 20 percent tax on regular and super unleaded gasoline/petrol, plus taxes on all lottery winnings, yachts longer than 10 meters, cars with large engines, furniture, alcohol and cigarettes.
Although the tax package is purportedly aimed at the wealthy, 57 percent of prepaid users are economically challenged, including students and the elderly. It is also worth noting that prepaid and subscriber cell phone taxes in Greece are amongst the highest in the world, along with Turkey, Tanzania, Uganda and Brazil.
Ways you can save time and/or money
– Convert now to a contract/connection (syndesi): If you are eligible, willing and able to move to a monthly subscriber plan or your home phone (stathero) provider offers cell phone service as an addition, do it now and try to lock in a lower monthly rate or take advantage of a promotion.
– Recharge now: If you plan to keep your prepaid cell phone, purchase time/credit from now until the end of July and save yourself the 10 12 percent tax. A 20-euro card will buy you less talk time after the tax takes effect, and they cannot retroactively deduct it if it’s already on your phone.
* Details about registration will be added when the program commences and mobile providers are ready.
Greek Cell Phone Service Providers
“Πακέτο φόρων και στην καρτοκινητή” — Eleftheros Typos
“Και τώρα αναμείνατε στο καρτοκινητό σας” — Eleftherotypia
“Φραγή σε 13,5 εκατ. καρτοκινητά” — Ta Nea
“Εντός της επόμενης εβδομάδας το νομοσχέδιο για τα καρτοκινητά” — Eleftherotypia
“Στη Βουλή το νομοσχέδιο για τα καρτοκινητά” — Ta Nea
“Νέοι φόροι σε καύσιμα, κινητά, σκάφη” — Ta Nea
“Αντιδράσεις των εταιρειών κινητής” — Kathimerini
“Παράταση για τα «φθηνά» καρτοκινητά” — Ta Nea