Government Watch. Are prepaid SIM cards to be sold only after identifying the purchaser?

LFMI examined draft amendments to the Law on Electronic Communication proposing mandatory registration of prepaid SIM cards by electronic communication providers, identification of customers identity and storage of their personal data.

The proposed regulation violates the principle of proportionality that requires that 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 proposed regulation has not been properly assessed in terms of its effect on the administrative burden and the principle of proportionality.

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 are provided to substantiate such statements.

It must be noted that the obligation to identify prepaid SIM card users and store their personal data would be valid only in Lithuania and prepaid SIM cards would continue to be sold without such restrictions in the neighbouring Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Belarus. Criminals will be able to purchase SIM cards in other countries and 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.”[1]

Furthermore, the proposed regulation would require additional administrative measures as well as both human and financial resources. Higher administrative costs would result in more expensive services and increased consumer prices.
It should be noted that the implementation and practical application of such a regulation is unclear and may infringe on personal rights of those already using prepaid SIM cards.

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.

In addition, the requirement to identify customers would undermine the key elements of current agreements between customers and service providers, and a retroactive regulation will infringe on one of the fundamental legal principle, namely lex retro non agit.

Having in mind the practical implications of the proposed regulation, it may turn out to be harmful rather than beneficial, so the bill should be declined.

The full position paper in Lithuanian can be found at

[1] GSMA. 2013. The Mandatory Registration of Prepaid SIM Card Users. Available online at