Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

Prepaid cell phone cards in Greece lose anonymity starting November 2009

simcardsPhoto from ukfreesims.co.uk

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

See, “Prepaid cell/mobile phones in Greece.”

Sources

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

Related posts

Conversations with my Greek cell phone provider
3G no likey my PB
How non-EU citizens can get a permit to move, live and work in Greece


26 Comments »

  EllasDevil wrote @ May 24th, 2009 at 17:26

This is actually how it used to be here back in the days when we just had Panafon (Vodafone) and Telestet (Wind). If you purchased a prepaid connection it wouldn’t work until you registered all your details with customer care.

I am curious how this registration system will work for people without a Greek address or a ΑΦΜ.

We’ll see…

Kat Reply:

You’re right. Both took info when I got my prepaid SIMs long ago, which is the reason my details are already on file and they knew my passport had expired in “Conversations with my Greek cell phone provider.”

As I understand, tourists/visitors won’t be required to give an AFM. When I bought a prepaid SIM in India, they were primarily interested in my passport and verified that I was indeed staying at the hotel I listed. I’ll update the article when more details come available and I go through the process myself.

  Tauros wrote @ May 24th, 2009 at 18:09

Another scheme that increases bureaucracy and attempts to justify raising taxes/fees in the process. As for reducing crime, especially “hard-core” crime, it won’t happen. The black market will quickly seize the new opportunity, and criminals will be easily able to procure and use SIM cards that have been originally obtained with false/stolen information and then passed through enough anonymous hands that they are completely untraceable to the actual user. It’s already easy to obtain a firearm in Greece illegally; SIM cards will be at least 10 times easier.

  dwain wrote @ May 24th, 2009 at 19:25

Jason Bourne won’t be able to pull any of his tricks in Greece!

  Aris wrote @ May 25th, 2009 at 00:44

I can assure you there is no such system in the UK. You can buy a SIM card anywhere and not give any details. In fact, you could use the SIM card in Greece too – so expect criminals to use UK sim cards in Greece to make calls – i’m sure they will not mind paying the small roaming premium.

Kat Reply:

Really? I took the information from one of the respected Greek newspapers and couldn’t find otherwise, so thank you for that correction. And yes, there are plenty of countries who do not require registration. Plenty!

  FMS wrote @ May 25th, 2009 at 02:42

I am just so sick of the sh!t we get in greece with everything. I will probably abandon my greek phone, maybe get a UK phone and refuse to use it for anything other than sms. The customer service from Vodafone is a pile of cr@p anyway, so I won’t miss that.

  George wrote @ May 27th, 2009 at 01:24

July, huh? Right when I get back to Athens. Great. Just Great.

  Claire wrote @ May 27th, 2009 at 09:55

I have a Vodaphone a la carte and phoned Vodaphone about registering personal details. Neither the main help line nor a Kalamata branch knew anything about the need to register!!! They assured me I could continue buying and using top-up cards as normal.

Kat Reply:

It’s because they haven’t started doing it yet or the person you dealt with is ignorant. And yes, as I say in the article, you can still buy and use recharge cards as normal; it’s only the registration of SIMs that’s necessary (which the government announced would start from July 2009 and end July 2010).

In case you haven’t noticed, passing measures/bills/laws in Greece is different than people’s awareness of them, having a system in place, and actually implementing them. Perhaps you haven’t lived here that long or don’t do much bureaucracy as a UK citizen, but it’s very typical for employees to be misinformed and typical of systems to be corrupt, non-functional or only in place at the last minute to the public’s detriment. This is why it’s important for residents to learn some Greek and educate themselves, since English-language newspapers often omit important stories or report the wrong details. I fill the gap as much as I can, but I’m only one person with limited free time.

FYI, Vodafone is with an ‘f’ not ‘ph.’ And Vodafone a la Carte is no longer called that.

  Demitris wrote @ May 27th, 2009 at 23:33

Oh man, I hate this crap. I’ll be up in Athens around August and I’ll need to get a new sim card. They’ve been discussing of doing the same down here in SA but at least the corporations are against beauracracy & like to keep things easy and streamlined for the mass market. We’ll see who wins in the end but I’ll like to see how they will ever get 40 million cell phone users to go along with this.

I definitely see the black market taking advantage of this situation in Greece and elsewhere. Cannot see how all this is going to stop criminals though.

  graffic wrote @ May 28th, 2009 at 09:28

So the government stole and wasted the money we gave them. Then they try to get even more money to continue doing the same thing. And the outrageous thing: people vote for them!

Amazing.

  Jeff wrote @ May 28th, 2009 at 23:55

Hi! I’ve been reading your blog for some time and really appreciate the hard work and effort you put into it. As someone who now just visits Greece once a year but hopes to retire here (with my husband who is Greek), it’s been a godsend of info! Thanks again so much! Jeff

Kat Reply:

Hi Jeff, thank you for saying ‘hi’ and introducing yourself. It’s always nice to hear from a longtime reader and know the information is appreciated. Makes it all worthwhile. :)

  Julie wrote @ May 31st, 2009 at 03:56

I’ll echo these sentiments. Thanks for all the clear – concise info…I have a phone…lost pin, plan to go to mobile phone store…good to know options.

Kat Reply:

The good thing about being registered on a prepaid SIM or having a subscription is they can usually give you your PIN by email or by phone, without having to go to the store. Nice to get another compliment from a new commentator. :)

  Eomaia wrote @ July 24th, 2009 at 17:37

I had NO IDEA about this, gosh… Thank you so much for your helpful posts – this isn’t the first time I’ve learnt about something important (that I hadn’t been told anywhere else) from your site, and it probably won’t be the last either. ;)

Kalo kalokairi!

Kat Reply:

Thank you and episis! :)

  Nick wrote @ July 27th, 2009 at 06:56

I have had a pre-paid SIM card from COSMOTE for about 8 years now. Since I don’t live in Greece but in the U.S., I use the phone when I am in Greece every year. I make sure that I get the card re-charged just before I leave Greece so the number doesn’t expire before the 12 month time period. Can I still register the number, or do I now have to get a new SIM card every time I go to Greece? Having the same number all these years has been very helpful.

Kat Reply:

Hi Nick, I understand the convenience and wanting to keep the number. As it stands right now, you can keep the number as long as you register the SIM before July 2010. You only need to do it once. We’re waiting for the process to be elucidated and implemented en masse, as phone companies, labor unions and politicians are still protesting the measure. So if there are changes, I’ll update my answer and the article.

  alastair wrote @ August 5th, 2009 at 15:23

So does this mean that new pay cards (until end of September) can be activated in the old way or do you have to register your details at a providers store?

Kat Reply:

I don’t see anything that mentions ‘until end of September,’ so I assume you mean ‘until Sept 15.’ Please read the first paragraph again because I think it answers your question, and I already answered Nick (commentator above you) with the same information.

  xtos wrote @ October 7th, 2009 at 16:44

I am Greek Canadian and use my phone only when I go to Greece. I buy the PrePaid Cards and only have to activate a Card once in a 12 month period to keep my number alive. I’ve had the same number for many years and don’t want to lose it; I gave it to everyone (friends and family) and government offices. If I lose my number, it will not be the end of the world, but I want to keep it. So I guess, I am now considered as a drug dealer, an immigrant smuggler and a blackmailer. Well, if I was in that business, business would be so good I would not need to live in Canada; I would be living the good life in Greece. How the hell am I going to register my phone if I do not go to Greece for a while?

Again, thanks Kat for everything that you do. I have been reading on here for more than 2 years (I just don’t comment to much, I am too lazy), but I was in Greece this past summer (2009) and I ask at more than one Cosmote Shop in every area of Greece that I visited and I got different answer from everyone. One guy told me, “Just have your Cousin register it” Well that would be nice, but it is my number and I have with me in Canada to sms once in a while. He then said, “Don’t worry, it may never happen, here is my Business Card, call me from Canada and I will register it for you” (He does not know me and I don’t know him), I feel better now knowing that that Greek government is on top of everything!!!

Take Care Everyone!!!

P.S. you should have Twitter Alerts (or some sort of other Social Media), so I don’t forget to come back and visit. You have a wealth of info, it would be a shame not to share it with more people.

Kat Reply:

Cell phone providers protested the measure, and the mobile phone union filed complaints also, so the law is frozen and implementation hasn’t started.

Regarding your P.S., the ‘Greek News’ feed in the third column is my ‘Living in Greece’ Twitter account that broadcasts news and alerts several times a day since February, plus it says you’re already subscribed to it. My website is also on Facebook, courtesy of NetworkedBlogs; and I offer the chiclets in the right column for anyone wishing to subscribe via RSS.

Thank you for your faithful readership. That’s more than I could ask for; comments welcome but optional.

  Amit wrote @ September 4th, 2012 at 00:31

Question: I am going to be island hopping in Greece for 2 weeks starting at Rhodes. Where and which kind of SIM should I buy in Rhodes for my U.S. Windows smartphone (unlocked) primarily for my e-mails (very minimal local or international calls, if any).

Thank you for e-mailing me with your advice, since this may not be of general interest.

Kat Reply:

You didn’t provide enough information for me to help you.

Assuming you have a dual or tri-band phone compatible with Europe, you can use the links at the end of the “Prepaid SIM cards for cell phones in Greece” post to look through all the offerings or visit a store when here to inquire. Staff are knowledgeable and speak English in tourist areas.

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