Institutional, productive and consumer bodies expressed their strong opposition and dissatisfaction to the continuation of the unfair, anti-development, anti-community and anti-social burden, “digital tax”. The Ministry of Culture insists, despite the commitments of ruling New Democracy party when it was in the position of main opposition in 2017 that it would abolish it, in maintaining the highest “digital tax” on digital products imported, produced and available in Greece, but also in the distorted and unfair implementation of the measure . The organizations opposed to the new law inclued the Association of Informatics and Communications Enterprises of Greece – SEPE, General Confederation of Professional Craft Merchants of Greece – GSEVEE, Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry – EBEA, Piraeus Chamber of Commerce and Industry – EBEP, Consumers Union-Quality of Life – E.K.POI.ZO, Professional Chamber of Athens – EEA, Hellenic Confederation of Trade and Entrepreneurship – ESEE, Hellenic Association of Young Entrepreneurs of Athens – ESYNE, Business & Retail Association of Greece – SELPE.
Contrary to pre-election commitments
The organizations chastize the government, since in pre-election promises it said it would clarify the uniform treatment of tablets and smartphones as computers and would clarify the correct declaration of the subjects in reasonable payment of items, is breaking thie commitment. The Ministry of Culture had included article 43, which rationalized and clarified the correct application of the existing legislation, addressing the irrational distortions and injustices and removing interpretive doubts, which created a series of problems and legal battles. Apparently, however, succumbing to various extortionate pressures during the present prolonged election period, just before the bill was tabled the Ministry of Culture withdrew Article 43, harming both consumer-citizens and business, but also the State.
Law 4481/2017 (A’ 100) of the SYRIZA government reimposed, after 15 years, the so-called “reasonable fee” of 2% on the value of PCs imported/produced in Greece. This fee is collected from the importers and producers by various Collective Management Organizations of creators (writers, artists, photographers) and distributed to their members for compensation for the legal reproduction of their works for private use. Based on the law, the importers/producers, who paid it, pass it on to the end users of these products (i.e. consumers, professionals, and the Greek State), who bear additional costs for the purchase of their equipment. It is clear that this is yet another unfair burden, with tragic consequences for everyone: consumers, businesses, professionals, the State that burdens everyone, especially today, in a period when, according to the official data of the General Labor Confederation of Greece, the purchasing power of workers has decreased by up to 40%, while small and medium enterprises are unable to meet their basic obligations.
The opposing organizations underlined that the withdrawal of the above article (43) is unfair, anti-developmental and goes against the directives and mandates of the European Union. It is also worth noting that:
· The digital “tax” is estimated to cost more than 70 million euros a year to Greek consumers, private businesses, professionals and the State. In fact, especially for businesses, organizations, professionals and the State, this burden is beyond illegal and the related payments of millions of euros have been paid unnecessarily and must be sought, while, with the withdrawal of article 43, they will continue to be paid in the future .
· This is an exorbitant charge (and even for third parties) with 2% on computers, tablets and smartphones, 4% on scanners and printers, 6% on storage media, etc. Based on the results of a survey, which was conducted for the first time in Greece, but also according to the data of Digital Europe (European Organization of Digital Technology Businesses and Associations), the amounts of reasonable remuneration, which apply in Greece and are charged to Greek consumers, are among highest in Europe (Greece is in the top four countries with the highest remuneration amounts), while, at the same time, these amounts are multiple (up to 10 times) the estimated loss of revenue for creators from the reproduction of their works. Only from Digital Care scheme, participating students and teachers were burdened with 3,250,000 euros, which were channeled to the members of the Collective Management Organizations!
· This specific burden affects the great goal of the digital transformation of Greece and electronic governance, which the Prime Minister had characterized as a central national priority, posing obstacles to the acquisition of technology products, the role of digital technology and in the country’s new development model, preventing Greece from making the real leap promised by the Prime Minister.
· The development of technology, information science, as well as digital skills, is a key axis in the fight against unemployment, enhancing the world of knowledge and experience with multiple possibilities and abilities. At the same time, all international data demonstrate the fact that Information and Communication Technologies are a necessary vehicle for enhancing transparency, dealing with corruption and tax evasion.
· It is a key blow to the international competitiveness of the Information Technology and Communications sector. It is worth noting that many EU member countries, such as Bulgaria, Ireland, Cyprus, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta and Finland, do not pay a “digital fee”. In addition, with this specific charge – which is not only multiple times what applies in other EU countries that have implemented a corresponding “fee” – Greece now becomes the “champion” of additional fees in this area (and in fact in favor of third parties – of the members of the Organizations of Collective Management), having one of the highest “digital fee” rates in Europe.
At the same time, the fact that the Organizations for the Collective Management of Intellectual Rights, which participated in the consultation, asserted that employees, both in the Public and Private sectors, during working hours illegally use the company’s or the organization’s equipment to produce private copies and the State and the companies (!!!) will have to prove that their employees do not make private use of the machines, in order to be exempt from the fee.
The protection of copyright is self-evident, and the establishment of reasonable compensation for creators necessary. However, it should not be achieved by excessively burdening consumers, businesses, the public sector and without being compatible with common European legislation, jurisprudence and practice. With complete, detailed and documented data, over time, Greece should try to contribute to the correct, legal and fair regulation of the matter for the benefit of everyone: consumers, creators, the State, the IT and communications technology market and of course the country itself and the national economy.
In this context, the Government must immediately restore, at least partially, this injustice, by restoring article 43 of the Law of the Ministry of Culture and ensuring the correct and fair application of the law, in accordance with the Community directives.