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CIPA up in arms over EU tariff rules

by on03 October 2007


Bureaucrats impose additional tax on cameras


The Camera & Imaging Products Association has released a statement in regards to new EU legislation which would impose a higher tax on digital cameras.

The EU has adopted a new tariff classification under which all digital cameras capable of filming HD video would be classified as video camera recorders, or camcorders.  European consumers stand to lose much, since they are already paying almost 40 percent more for their digicams than the average US consumer.

Here are the EU's criteria: resolution 800x600 pixels or higher, duration of a single video recording 30 minutes or more, 23 FPS framerate or higher. All three criteria must be met in order to classify a product as a camcorder, instead of a digital camera.

"Arbitrary and unilateral tariff classification having been executed by the EU authorities for the products eligible for the ITA (Information Technology Agreement) is infringement of the ITA. Thus, the CIPA will continue to make claims for the invalidity of the relevant action similar to this case in the trade area from now on so that other IT products will not be affected by such action," claims CIPA.

Apparently the EU even wanted to retroactively impose a tariff charge for the past three years, but dropped the nonsense, probably after realizing that in the past couple of years few if any digital cameras on the market met their criteria.

With the fast pace of development, digital cameras are slowly turning into very capable video capture devices. New, more powerful processors, low memory prices and the introduction of SDHC cards make it possible to incorporate high quality video features into low cost digital cameras. Many camera makers have already announced products with HD video, and this seemed like a very promising trend.

However, there are apparently some loopholes in the EU criteria. They opted for the obsolete 4:3 800X600 resolution as the upper limit, but new cameras are going wide, 848X480, 720p etc. It's not exactly clear if wide formats will suffer, as with some only the horizontal resolution limit would be surpassed, but not the vertical.

The 30 minute criteria is also a nice way to wiggle around the new tariff, since few consumers film for 30 minutes on end. Hopefully the EU will change its mind under pressure, otherwise European consumers will get crippled cameras or face even higher prices in the next couple of years, as if they weren't getting ripped off as it is.

You can download the full CIPA statement here.

Last modified on 03 October 2007
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