The humble set-top box is at the center of a controversy involving EU import tariffs that could cost the region €300 million per year in lost income.
Cable set-top boxes are one of three products the EU has been ordered to re-classify as ‘high-tech’ goods by the World Trade Organization, which would make them subject to zero import tariffs under a trade agreement signed in 1996, WSJ.com reports
The EU currently classes Internet-capable STBs as old technology, and levies tariffs of 6% to 14% on imports because they are not covered by the Information Technology Agreement (ITA).
Total imports of STBs, flat-panel computer monitors - classed simply as TV screens by the EU – and printers with scanning capabilities – photocopiers – into the region were valued at $11 billion (€8.5 billion) in 2007, the paper said.
European Commission spokesman Patrizio Fiorilli says rough calculations show reclassifying the three product types could cost the region up to €300 million per year in lost revenues, Bloomberg reported.
The WTO’s intervention follows several years of lobbying by the US, Japan and Taiwan, with firms including HP and Canon also voicing their disapproval over the classification.
While the EU has 60 days to appeal the WTO ruling, officials in the region are reportedly keen to renegotiate the ITA entirely.