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Wait. What?! No bundles?

July 9, 2008

As an American that believes in a free market system, there are many Belgian laws that I find absolutely confounding. Totally and completely confounding.

38 hour work weeks? Prohibitions against retail outlets being open 24/7? Mandates on when sales may be held? Where am I?

The latest quirky (at least to me) law to be added to the list is the Belgian policy that devices cannot be sold in conjunction with a required subscription.

Example: You can’t bundle something like, oh, I don’t know the iPhone 3G with subscription to the Belgian service provider Mobistar.

I don’t know enough about the subject to say whether or not this law ultimately benefits consumers, but I will say that it bothers me that the government has that much control over the Belgian businesses.  If a company wants to adopt Bundling as it’s primary selling strategy why should the government interfere? Let the consumers decide for themselves whether or not its worthwhile.

(from Flickr)

(from Flickr)

As for the iPhone 3G (which was the impetus for this post), it’s release to the Belgian public on July 11th is rather interesting. Earlier in the week, it was circulated that the July 11th launch date for the marvelous device would have to be postponed due to the silly bundle law.  Fortunately, Apple, the Belgian government and Mobistar (the telecom company chosen to be a partner) reached an agreement – both Mobistar and Apple Premium dealers will cell SIM Lock FREE iPhones. No jailbreaking or hacking into iPhones over here. No, you’ll be able to take your pretty little computer phone to any service provider without any fuss. However, buyer be warned (or ‘caveat emptor’ if you prefer), such freedom comes at a cost.

Of 525 EUR for the 8GB and 615 EUR for the 16GB phone. Or $825/$965 at $1.57/1Eur.

Ouch. ouch. ouch.

$825>$199.

When I first saw this, I was a bit perturbed. SIM lock free is nice but is it $825 nice??

But then I got to thinking… perhaps this could benefit the Belgian consumer? Since the phone is not tied to a specific carrier, perhaps the other two Belgian providers (Proximus & Base) will use this opportunity to broaden their customer base by offering incentives to use their service. Lower rates for more data/talk time. A few months free. Whatever. No bundles means more competition and more competition could mean lower prices. Score.

To further support the stance that this might be an okay detail, I found this breakdown online which suggests that Belgian customers could be ever so slightly ahead of AT&T customers.

Hmm… I want one so badly. Boyfriend’s iTouch has become an indispensible part of our lives. It is our guide book when we travel, our go-to for weather, our alarm clock, our game console (just beat boyfriend’s Tetris score the other day! go me!), our planner, our converter, our level (seriously, we used the ‘level’ app when hanging up pictures in the apartment), etc. If it were our PHONE too that would be downright convenient.

Sadly, deal or no deal, I’m not about to fork over more than 100 Eur for a phone when work gives me one for free. No matter how much I pine for shiny gadgets, I’m still a cheap skate.

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