Government Watch. On Mandatory Registration of Prepaid SIM Card Users

The Lithuanian Free Market Institute has examined draft amendments to the Law on Electronic Communications aimed at introducing mandatory registration of prepaid SIM cards, user identification and storage of their personal data, and submitted its comments and proposals to relevant authorities.

In its position paper LFMI noted that the proposed regulation has not been properly assessed in terms of its effect on the administrative burden and violates the principle of proportionality under which legal measures shall be strictly limited to what is absolutely necessary to achieve the desired objectives while keeping the administrative and other burden to a minimum.

The explanatory note of the bill states that the proposed regulation will facilitate pre-trial investigation in cases where suspects are using mobile communication services, but no statistical data to substantiate such statements is provided. It must be noted that the obligation to identify prepaid SIM card users and store their personal data would not be valid outside Lithuania and prepaid SIM cards would continue to be sold without such restrictions in the neighboring Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Belarus. Therefore, prepaid SIM cards will remain accessible in other countries and criminals may continue to use them in Lithuania.

To add, some EU countries already have a compulsory registration of prepaid SIM users, but in 2012 the European Commission conducted research and the European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström concluded that “to date there is no evidence that mandatory registration leads to a reduction in crime as well as there is no evidence in terms of benefits for criminal investigation or the smooth functioning of the internal market.”

It should also be noted the proposed regulation requires additional administrative measures as well as both human and financial resources that would imply higher administrative costs and result in more expensive services and higher consumer prices.

Finally, it is unclear whether mobile operators will be required to identify those already using prepaid services. If so, contacting every single customer will require a particular concentration of resources. What is more, the collection of personal data may result in more criminal activities, because offenders may attempt to take advantage of the new regulation by contacting people in order to obtain their personal information.

Given the aforementioned arguments, LFMI calls for the rejection of the draft law.

The full position paper (in Lithuanian) is available at