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iPhone is legit again after years on Argentina's gray market

Thursday, March 30, 2017 - 14:14

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Apple Inc's iPhone will be sold widely in Argentina next month for the first time in several years, according to a person familiar with the matter, as President Mauricio Macri seeks to re-open the South American nation to global trade.

[BUENOS AIRES] Apple Inc's iPhone will be sold widely in Argentina next month for the first time in several years, according to a person familiar with the matter, as President Mauricio Macri seeks to re-open the South American nation to global trade.

The iconic phone has been unavailable from carriers Telefonica SA, America Movil SAB and Telecom Argentina SA because of rules put in place in 2009 by Macri's predecessor Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner pressuring device makers to assemble their products in Argentina.

Apple never opened a factory there, even as competitors such as Samsung Electronics Co complied.

All regulatory hurdles to import the iPhone have been removed, though the carriers will have to pay import taxes that will make the devices at least 25 per cent more expensive than locally assembled phones, said the person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing private information.

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Still, the phone companies wanted to offer iPhones for high-end users for whom the steeper price isn't an issue, the person said. The carriers can let customers pay for the phone in installments, making it more accessible.

Despite the obstacles, iPhones are already a common sight on the streets of Buenos Aires, making their way to the country in the suitcases of travellers to Miami or through small businesses that import the devices and sell them online.

Apple declined to comment. La Nacion, el Cronista and other Argentine outlets reported the iPhone's return earlier.

Hector Goldin, an Apple reseller in Buenos Aires, said he had to stop offering iPhones seven years ago because of the restrictions. He's been selling the Cupertino, California-based company's devices since 1985 and is its top tier of distributing partners.

"It's hard to explain how happy I am," he said.

"I am already receiving the new ones for sale and at the same time getting reservations from clients who still don't know the final price."

Goldin's Maxim Store, next to the Galerias Pacifico mall downtown, will sell five iPhone models starting April 7, and he envisions customers lining up for the phones as they do elsewhere when new versions come out.

He declined to give prices, saying Apple doesn't like to disclose such details until device goes on sale, but said it will be expensive - perhaps double the price in the US and 40 per cent higher than in neighbouring Chile because of sales, import and income taxes. But Argentines who do buy local will have be able to get full service on certified iPhones, he said.

"I can imagine many of Chile's retailers are worried after this news," he said. "They will lose a lot of clients."

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