Duty-free shops, travelers spared new customs rules

By Amy Su  /  Staff reporter

Tue, Sep 03, 2013 - Page 13

Operators of duty-free shops in Taiwan will not need to record their customers’ personal data, as various legislators and shop operators expressed concerns the move would hurt the nation’s duty-free trade, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday.

The decision came after an announcement by the ministry’s Department of Customs Administration on July 31, which said it was scheduled to revise the rules on duty-free shop operator management after reviewing them last month.

The revised rules required shop operators to record the passport numbers of travelers purchasing items in duty-free shops as well as details of the items they were purchasing.

The information recorded by computer systems in duty-free shops would immediately be transferred to the administration’s computer system.

However, the department changed its mind, as duty-free shop operators expressed concerns such a move could create an unfriendly shopping experience and cause long lines as shoppers would have to complete a lengthy registration process, which might encourage travelers to buy at other international airports.

The Ministry of Justice also expressed its opposition to this proposal, saying the revision might violate travelers’ privacy.

Last month, various lawmakers, including Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕), Lin Te-fu (林德福) and Wong Chung-chun (翁重鈞), held a public hearing over the issue, with representatives of duty-free shop owners sharing similar views.

“Since representatives indicated the new rules could affect travelers’ willingness to purchase goods at the nation’s airports, we agree to revise the regulations [on recording personal data],” the department director Wang Liang (王亮) told a press conference yesterday.

However, Wang said registering passport numbers is a method commonly used in countries like the US, Japan and South Korea.

Also, the department will insist on the revision that duty-free shop operators have to connect their electronic system instantly with the Customs Administration’s system, to be consistent with international standards, Wang added.

Wang said the department would draft a new version of the rules this month and inform the public, as requested by legislators, giving the public a month to review the proposed rules, before the revisions are officially announced and take effect.

“We still hope the revisions can take effect by the end of this year,” he said.

Separately, the Cabinet yesterday appointed FSC Vice Chairman Wu Tang-chieh (吳當傑) as the new vice minister of finance, adding that Huang Tien-mu (黃天牧), director-general of the FSC’s securities and futures bureau, would fill in Wu’s former position.

Wu’s financial background makes him particularly suitable for his new post and it is thought he will be able to help the ministry advance its agenda, a Cabinet spokesperson said.

Huang, who has a wide range of experience and has helped develop the domestic Chinese-yuan denominated bond market and promote the offshore securities business, will continue to help supervise and manage the financial sector in his new post, the spokesperson said.

Additional reporting by CNA