A spokesman of the Pakistan Computer Association in a statement issued in Islamabad has demanded of the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) to immediately take notice of a deliberate move by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to hinder  the business of small computer vendor industry by erecting unnecessary blocks and restrictions to force them out of the market.

It has been brought to the notice of the PCA that small vendors of computer industry are facing lengthy and cumbersome documentation procedure, impossible to carry out under the circumstances.  While, big firms obtain NOCs within no time from the PTA for import of specific products, the small vendors find it impossible to fulfill the requirements.  It seems that a deliberate attempt is made to facilitate few big fish engaged in import of computer related equipment and IT apparatus. On the contrary, unnecessary restrictions have been imposed by the PTA on imports made by small computer vendors and in addition, custom department at ports are also demanding approval of the equipment which is not specified in the list circulated by the PTA. This disadvantageous position has allegedly facilitated the import business of only few big firms leaving the small vendors in dire trouble.

Terminal equipment required to be under the PTA type approval list included wireless modules to be installed in tablet PCs servers, laptops; wireless access point; tablet PC having WiFi and blue tooth; WiFi terminal; Bluetooth devices including tablet PCs mobile phones etc; IP phone except for call centers; vehicle tracking system; vehicle security devices; fax data modem with WiFi NFC; wireless radio trans/receiver sets; fixed wireless terminal; WiMAX terminal; PABX/IP-PBX (for each additional 100 lines); RFIDs; mobile phone handsets; VoIP terminal equipment (Gateways, access points); broadband terminal equipment and others.

The CCP has to see whether there is abuse of dominance position under section 3 of the Competition Act which is forcing the small businessmen to leave the market. The sub-section 2 of section 3 of the Competition Act clearly says that an abuse of dominant position shall be deemed to have been brought about, maintained or continued if it consists of practices been brought about, maintained or continued if it consists of practices which prevent, restrict, reduce, or distort competition in the relevant market. However, in this specific case there is a clear abuse of dominance as small vendors have to face strict conditions which cannot be complied with.

The CCP is responsible for creating a level playing field for all economic activities undertaken by promoting a healthy competition, enhancing economic efficiency and protecting consumers from anti competitive practices. The Competition Act, 2010 does not discriminate between small and big business and rather protects small business from abuse of dominant position of big businesses.

It has been brought to the notice of the Pakistan Computer Association (PCA) by IT vendors that they are facing serious problems in clearance of the imported terminal equipments/products at the hands of customs officials who are demanding ‘PTA type approval from importers, after the PTA authorities took up the matter with the FBR asking them to intervene and ensure that only terminal equipments having ‘PTA type approval’ are sold in the market pretending the sale of imported substandard telecom equipment in the market as hazardous to the health and loss to the exchequer.

Mr. Munawar Iqbal Chairman Pakistan Computer Association (PCA) has sharply criticized the imposition of obstacles and bars on the shipments of computer vendors by customs authorities who are demanding NOC from Pakistan Talecommunication Authority (PTA).

The computer equipment i.e. PCs, servers, laptops and tablets, which have been imported by several computer vendors are stuck up at various ports of Pakistan after a newly introduced condition of “Type Approval” by PTA, which is a very lengthy process and requires various kind of reports from the manufacturer and inspection from third party and bureaucratic nitti gritty as well.

The PCA takes this matter seriously as the IT importers are facing severe problems in getting cleared their shipments due to the policy adopted by the custom authorities. While, the customs authorities are themselves violating the rules by withholding the shipments other than the attached list carrying the networking switches, routers, adapters, servers and other commonly used products which are outside PTA type list.

The PCA believes that there are thousands of products in the vendor category which are being sold in the most advance countries where quality of service and health issues are particularly focused and handled very seriously and these products are being sold there for the past many years without creating any issue at all.

The PCA demands of the PTA to clear the ambiguity about these products and define and specify their features to enable the importers to safely apply for the type approval equipment. The customs authorities must also stop the entry of those particular products into the country banned in Pakistan instead of banning a wide range of the products segments leading to loss of precious time of the importers and revenue loss to government.

Referring to the said list, he said, custom authorities are also withholding the shipments carrying the networking switches, routers, adapters, servers and other products at Karachi Air Freight Unit (KAFU) which are not in the list and these are very commonly used products in any SOHO segment (Small office, Home office) and not specific with the terminal or communications products which are addressed in the MCC appraisement (WEST) letter.  The PCA believes that these withheld products are being sold in the most advance countries where quality of service and health issues are particularly focused and handled very seriously and these products are being sold there for the past many years without creating any issue at all and no country has ever raised any such objection.

He added that this practice is being exercising only at the KAFU while at the Karachi sea port and the other ports there is no such practice is going on which gave the impression of confusions amongst the importers.

The PCA demands the authorities at PTA and FBR to take into confidence the computer vendors / importers / distributors through PCA before formulating and implementing a policy like this, as they are the actual stakeholders and consultation with PCA should be carried out to take them on board.

The PCA demands immediate withdrawal of PTA’s “Type Approval” condition and also demanded the customs authorities to release the Networking Equipment which was withheld on objection of quality.  It is ironical to say that restrictive policy being exercised by the customs and PTA is highly dangerous for the development of IT industry in the country.

PCA is a nationwide representative body of Computer vendors, distributors and importers and strongly reject the bar on the import of IT equipment.  PCA draws the attention of the Finance Minister, Mr. Ishaq Dar and IT Minister Ms. Anosha Rehman to look into the matter of grave concern being faced by the IT Industry and redress the situation. Mr. Munawar Iqbal Chairman PCA said that IT in our country is in a developing and growing stage and erecting obstacles and hindrances will lead to decline in the growth of the information technology in the country.

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