BrainTwisters

NTCs Tamper Proof Labels
by: Jerry Liao

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has come up with another of their brilliant ideas to thwart phone theft. This time all mobile phones, new and old, should have NTC tamper proof labels; otherwise suppliers/distributors/dealers/sellers/resellers who engaged in the purchase, sale, lease and/or retail of cellular phones without the NTC approved sticker shall be fined the amount of P 5,000.00 per unit. Scary huh?

Before we go any further, let me show you the provision first:

1. PURPOSE – The primary purpose of this Circular is to require cellular phones offered for sale to bear the NTC sticker and allowing undocumented cellular phones to register with the Commission in order to avail of the NTC sticker.

2. GENERAL PROVISIONS
2.1 All cellular phones sold in the market shall bear the NTC sticker, including second hand cellular phones. Cellular phones that are used by subscribers are not required; however the same shall be subjected to the requirement once it is offered for sale or sold second hand to authorized cellular phone sellers/resellers.

2.2 The manufacture, distribution and attachment of the tamper proof NTC sticker shall be done solely by the Commission to provide assurance that the cellular phones come from a legitimate source; this translates into assurance and protection for consumers. This shall also serve as an instrument to discourage suppliers/distributors to under declare the number of units they import.

3. GUIDELINES FOR THE ISSUANCE OF NTC STICKER- The Central and Regional Offices are mandated to cause the registration, recording and reporting pertaining to the issuance of NTC stickers with the following guidelines:

3.1 For New, Imported Cellular Phones – All cellular phones prior to its release from the Bureau of Customs shall secure an NTC sticker from the Commission by presenting documentary evidences coming from the Bureau of Customs that said cellular phones will be subjected to import taxes and other custom duties.

3.2 For cellular phones that are already offered for sale – Authorized suppliers/distributors/dealers/sellers/resellers shall secure the NTC sticker by presenting any of the following documents:

a. Official receipt issued by the source of equipment, which should come from authorized suppliers/distributors.

b. Copies of payment of customs duties.

Authorized supplier, distributors, dealers, sellers, and resellers shall be allowed to secure the NTC sticker for cellular phones already in the market for 180 days from the effectivity of this Circular.

3.3 For cellular phones to be retailed as second hand – Owners intending to sell his/her cellular phone without the NTC sticker to an authorized seller/reseller shall secure an NTC sticker by presenting any of the following:

a. Box of cellular phone with IMEI sticker still intact.

b. Official Receipt by authorized dealers, suppliers, sellers and resellers covering the purchased cellular phones.

c. Affidavit attesting that he/she is the owner of said cellular phone and the same was purchased from a legitimate source. An individual will only be allowed an accumulated number of five (5) units of cellular phones to be registered with the Commission within a year.

4. MANUFACTURE AND ISSUANCE OF NTC STICKER – It shall be the responsibility of the Commission to manufacture, distribute and attach the tamper-proof sticker or label as described below to the cellular phones. The size should be at least 20 cm x 20 cm to fit with all the sizes of cellular phones. The Commission shall prepare a cumulative master list or data base of all cellular phones with issued stickers to include information such as the make/type/model of the cellular phone, international mobile equipment identification IMEI, date of issuance and other information such as name of grantee and address, etc.

5. FEES and CHARGES – There will be a one-time registration fee equivalent to P 75.00 that shall be charged per cellular phone regardless of make/type and model. Non-payment of the required fee shall be a ground for the denial, disapproval, suspension and/or revocation of registration. The registration of the above equipment shall also be without prejudice to the payment of duties and taxes that the Bureau of Customs or the Bureau of Internal Revenue may impose and/or such action as the latter offices may take against any registrant.

First, let me commend the NTC for trying their best to come up with solutions in order to control or minimize phone theft. But at the same time, whose bright mind thought of this bright idea that made it so bright that I can’t see where it’s coming from and where it’s heading? And since when do tamper proof labels or stickers become so powerful that it can stop or control phone theft?

Will it discourage suppliers/distributors to under declare the number of units they import? – NO. Honest businessmen will always be honest and dishonest businessmen will always be dishonest even if you put a tattoo on the phone or any other product for that matter. Does the NTC think every phone sale/transaction in the Philippines is legal?

Will resellers stop selling phones without stickers? – NO. The gray market industry is the one selling most of the handsets in the country today, not the legitimate ones. People buy phones from the underground market because they are cheaper; they don’t even mind the quality for as long as it works – it can text and it can make calls. In other words, the NTC will only have records of legitimate phones. How they will store that information and make it work is another story that I already discussed in my previous article.

And the biggest question of them all – Will SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards be able to distinguish phones with stickers from those without stickers – NO. SIM cards will work on phones regardless of whether they will have the NTC stickers or not. So if SIM cards will still work, who cares about the stickers?

The suggestion will only result in more problems for the industry – fake stickers, higher cost, more bureaucracy, more red tape, etc. Why add another complication to an already complicated matter?

What I cannot understand is the NTC knows that the only solution to this growing mobile phone problem is to control the selling of SIM cards. I have been saying this all along and I am sure they’ve read my articles and they know it from the start. Just like my favorite example, who will buy a car if I can’t buy the gasoline for it? Register all SIM cards sold and associate it to a user. Once the user complains that his/her mobile phone was stolen, deactivate the SIM card and make it impossible for the robber to buy another SIM card again. Without a working SIM card, who will be interested to buy a stolen phone?

To my friends at the NTC – do not be part of the process, your mandate is to regulate. You don’t fight a technology and an economic problem with a sticker; you fight technology with technology. To my telecom provider friends – come on guys, you know it is only you who can stop phone theft. Don’t give me those education and awareness efforts that you’re doing. Control the selling of the SIM cards and the problem will go away in no time. To my fellow mobile phone users – what can we do but to pray that the robbers will not be interested with our phones? We have a lingering problem here and new unproven solutions – either way we always get the raw end of the deal.

*****

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