Mobile handset sellers and distributors have bumped up the prices ahead of Eid using the excuse that the customs duty on the handsets has doubled even though importers have not increased the prices at their end.
The government has raised the customs duty on handset import to 10 percent from June 1. After clothes and accessories, gadgets are what sells the most ahead of Eid.
Only one vendor, Nokia, has officially increased the price of one of its handset models following the duty hike.
It raised the price of its revamped 3310 model, which was launched in Bangladesh at the end of May, to Tk 4,500 from Tk 4,250. But over at Bashundhara City, a major hub for mobile phones, the model is selling for more than Tk 6,000.
Symphony, the top selling mobile handset brand, has not increased its prices, said Ashraful Haque, marketing director of its parent company, Edison Group.
“But we have learned that some retailers increased the prices ahead of Eid,” he added.
Fair Group, importer of Samsung handsets, also said it has not increased the price of any of the models even though it has paid extra duties, said its Chairman Alam Al Mahbub Manik.
In 2016, the industry brought in about 3.10 crore mobile handsets to the country through the legal channel, up 11 percent year-on-year, according to the Bangladesh Mobile Phone Importers Association. Illegal handset imports most likely surpassed the number. The incremental customs duty will only encourage undisclosed imports and deprive the government of revenue, Haque said. This will ultimately help to destroy the industry, which is worth more than Tk 10,000 crore now, importers said.
This correspondent last week visited at least three popular mobile hubs -- Bashundhara City, Motaleb Plaza and Eastern Plaza -- and found that opportunistic retailers have hiked the prices of handsets, many of which were illegal imports, ahead of Eid. They all used the excuse of customs duty hike to raise the price of handsets -- even though they did not pay the duty in the first place.
The shops were selling all the popular handset brands like Apple, Samsung, HTC, LG, BlackBerry, Sony at a much cheaper price than the official stores of the brands but without any warranty. Md Murad Hossain, proprietor of Mobile House, a busy handset trader at Bashundhara City, said most of the handsets did not have clearance from the telecom regulator or customs.
Jamal Uddin, an authorised dealer of Symphony at Bashundhara City, said most of the expensive handsets came through illegal channel as international brands like Apple, HTC or BlackBerry do not have a distribution network in Bangladesh.
Some shopkeepers, however, said they bought handsets from importers who brought the handsets the legal way.