Thursday, October 10, 2013

Dar telcos join consumers in lawsuit over SIM card tax

The Tanzanian High Court (Dar es Salaam HQ

The Tanzanian High Court (Dar es Salaam HQ pictured) has allowed mobile carriers to join as claimants a consumer lawsuit against the dreaded SIM card tax. The tariff should have taken effect in July, but at this point its future seems uncertain. PHOTO | FILE 

By Rosina John, The Citizen

Dar es Salaam. The High Court yesterday agreed to an application by mobile phone companies to be joined in a petition lodged by the Tanzania Consumer Advocacy Society opposing the Sh 1,000 SIM card tax.

The court reached the decision yesterday after overruling a preliminary objection by the government, which was opposing the application by phone companies asking to be joined in the case against SIM card tax.

Giving the ruling, Judge Aloyisius Mujuluzi who led a panel of three judges said the reason for preliminary objection raised by the government did not have a legal basis because the law did not require each applicant to file an affidavit.

Five applicants, MIC Tanzania Limited, Vodacom, Airtel, Zanzibar Telecom Limited and the Tanzania Telecommunications Company (TTCL) are each seeking to be joined as petitioners.

Their application were submitted to the court on Monday through an affidavit sworn by Tumaini Shija, representing MIC Tanzania.

But the government, through deputy Attorney General George Masaju and Principal State Attorney Edson Mweyunge, alleged that the application by mobile phone firms was improper because the applicant did not ask the court leave to represent other parties.

According to Mr Mweyunge, a person wishing to represent several parties is required to ask the court leave to do so or each applicant should file an affidavit.

However, the judge said the circumstances of the case were different and did not require the applicant to ask for court leave.

The deputy AG and Mweyuge who are representing the ministry of Finance and the Attorney General are respondents in the case.

In the main case, the Tanzania Consumers Advocacy Society allege that some sections in 2013 Finance Act that give legal duty to the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) to collect a Sh1,000 tax on each SIM card is unconstitutional.

According to them, their clients who are normal Tanzania cannot afford Sh100 reduction there for will reprieve their right to communication.

Mobile phone companies are representing by advocate Fatuma Karume and Beatus Malima.