Major players in the UK photographic industry are today looking into the possible financial implications of the EU?s decision to place an import duty on some digital compact cameras.
UK trade body The Photo Imaging Council (PIC) will this morning email its members to find out how the import duty will affect their businesses.
PIC?s members include Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Fuji Photo Film (UK), Sony, Kodak and Olympus.
Last night the Tokyo-based Camera & Imaging Products Association (CIPA) contacted PIC to arrange urgent talks with the UK trade body concerning the EU?s controversial decision.
Both CIPA and PIC have vigorously campaigned against the EU import duty threat.
UK photo industry chiefs warned last year that the European Commission could reclassify digital compacts as ?camcorders? – potentially subjecting them to an import duty as high as 12.5%.
Video cameras are understood to attract a customs excise duty of at least 4.9% when they enter European markets from a non-European country.
Details of the European Commission?s decision are not yet clear. However, reporting the move yesterday, news agency Reuters stated that to be classed as a digital camera ? and not a camcorder ? equipment must not be capable of recording 30 minutes or more of a single sequence of video in a quality of ?800×600 pixels or higher at 23 frames per second or higher?.
The news, which could impact on high-street prices of future launches, comes as details of the EU plans emerge. We understand the proposals allow customs officers to apply such a duty, retrospectively, on all such digital cameras imported over the past three years ? dealing an additional blow to consumers if suppliers attempt to claw back high costs by raising prices.
Among those fighting the EU plan was Austrian MEP Othmar Karas who – in an article published ahead of the decision – warned: ?With 40m digital cameras bought in 2006, the EU is the world?s biggest sales market. However, it does not host any manufacturers. Therefore, no European country would benefit from new European tariffs. And because there are no European manufacturers, tariffs will lead to higher prices ? with a clear negative effect on European consumers.?
Karas added: ?It is expected that digital cameras will soon be capable of recording sequences with SGVA (800×600); the proposals therefore do not reflect reality. The proposed criterion would furthermore strongly hinder innovation. It will induce manufacturers to delay the introduction of new products to the European market with higher prices.?
He continued: ?The Commission seems to claim for herself to know better than consumers how to distinguish camcorders from digital cameras.?
Digital still cameras are currently exempt from import duty because they are classed as ?information technology products?.
PIC?s spokeswoman Pam Hyde told us the trade body is weighing up the implications but has not yet received formal details about the EU?s decision. ?We just have informal comments from the meeting,? she told us.
PIC represents more than 100 manufacturers importers, exporters and photo waste companies.