By Constantinos Psillides
Parliament will pass an amendment making it compulsory for users of prepaid phone cards to provide identification, in an attempt to curb crime, Communication and Transports Committee chairman, Antonis Antoniou said.
The amendment will be put to a plenum vote after the Easter holidays.
“The provider will now be required to ask for a name and ID number for everyone purchasing a pre-paid card, in order to activate the account,” said Antoniou, clarifying that if the card is not bought directly from the provider then the buyer will have to contact the provider himself.
If the pre-paid card is bought under a company name, the buyer is required to register the company’s name and the company’s serial number, as listed by the Registrar of Companies.
Giving out false information will carry a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and/or a fine of €50,000.
Providers are not absolved of their responsibilities under the new amendment. Activating a pre-paid phone card without first registering the owner’s name and ID number, results in a €50,000 fine.
“In case the buyer wishes to buy the card for himself but give it to someone else, then he/she is required to identify the new user via a notarised statement sent to the provider within a six-month period. Failing to do so carries a six month imprisonment and/or a €5,000 fine,” explained Antoniou.
In the event the pre-paid card is lost, the buyer is required to immediately inform the provider. In the case where the telecommunication company doesn’t deactivate the account, it will be subjected to a €10,000 fine.
Current pre-paid phone card owners will be notified via a text message that within six months they will be required to register their names and ID number with their provider. Not adhering to the new regulation will result in the termination of the account.
“No account will be activated if the buyer doesn’t register first with the provider,” stressed Antoniou.
Regarding tourists, the DIKO MP said that they will be required to show a passport or other travel documents.
“A high number of crimes are connected in some way with pre-paid phone cards, including anonymous harassment through calls and text messages. Cypriots are plagued by this type of behaviour and we hope that by passing this amendment that those types of crimes will be reduced. It won’t make the problem go completely away but it’s a start. More steps are required we won’t hesitate to take them,” the MP stressed.
The bill was tabled by DIKO. Opposition AKEL initially said the move would “usher in a police state with Big Brother watching our every move.” Providers CyTA and MTN also expressed objections, arguing that it would result in a major loss in revenue.
The issue came to the fore after the office of a company belonging to the chairman of the Cyprus Football Association Costas Koutsokoumnis was bombed in November 2009.
According to Koutsokoumnis he had received a threatening call the day before but he did not report it to police as they had been unable to do anything about it on previous occasions.
Police, who want the law changed to oblige users to supply their identities, said it was impossible to track down perpetrators under the circumstances.