Beware at Customs: Gov't Has Banned iPad Imports

If you had thought to buy Apple's new iPad tablet computer any time soon and bring it to Israel, you may have to change your plans: Starting yesterday, the Communications Ministry has blocked the import of iPads to Israel, and the customs authority has been directed to confiscate them.

The decision follows the refusal of the ministry's engineering staff to compromise on testing the device's suitability and compliance with Israeli wireless networks.

It seems however that the engineers made their decision without notifying Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon in advance - and caused an uproar within the ministry.

For now, the ministry has not given the device categorical approval required for wireless devices; and ministry officials say its wireless technology is not compatible with Israeli standards.

"The iPad device sold exclusively today in the United States operates at broadcast power levels [over its WiFi modem] compatible with American standards," explained the officials. "As the Israeli regulations in the area of WiFi are similar to European standards, which are different from American standards, which permit broadcasting at lower power, therefore the broadcast levels of the device prevent approving its use in Israel," said the officials.

The ministry has requested all the relevant information on the iPad from Apple's Israeli distributor, iDigital, so as to approve importing iPads.

An Israeli who returned from the U.S. yesterday told TheMarker that when he tried to declare his new iPad at customs, it was confiscated. He was told to apply to the Communications Ministry to have it returned. When he spoke to the ministry, he was told: "It is forbidden to bring iPads into Israel; send it back overseas."

In the meantime, he says the device is in a customs warehouse, and he is being charged for every day it remains there.

The head of customs at Ben-Gurion International Airport said yesterday they have confiscated 10 iPads, including those their owners declared and on which they offered to pay the 16% VAT required by law.