Samsung has failed to convince the North Gauteng High Court that its Galaxy S7 smartphone is not a “telephone for cellular networks”.
Samsung brought the case against the commissioner for the South Africa Revenue Service (SARS) to withdraw some import tariffs for its smartphones.
The mobile manufacturer was charged for importing “telephones for cellular networks” which it argued did not apply to its Galaxy S7 devices.
Samsung argued that the principal function of a Galaxy S7 was to connect to the Internet, social media, music, and games, and not for the making of telephone calls.
It substantiated its argument through an affidavit from IT specialist Jacques Van Wyk who described the design features and the characteristics of the products.
Van Wyk said over and above the telephony function, a Galaxy S7 used fixed apps which were not available in a traditional cellphone.
According to Van Wyk a Galaxy S7 is best described as an “apparatus which allows for the connection to a wireless communication network for the transmission or reception of speech or other sounds, images or data”.
SARS hit back, arguing the Galaxy S7 is clearly a “telephone for cellular networks” despite significant developments in recent years.
SARS said the device was small enough to carry in your hand, it had speakers at both ends like any other telephone and operated using a SIM card and mobile number.
It added that the Galaxy S7 had electronic keypads and software which enabled the user to dial a telephone number to initiate a telephone call and to terminate a telephone call.
“The Samsung Galaxy S7 is a telephone for cellular network and not some other device other than a telephone,” SARS said.
Judge Nomonde Mngqibisa-Thusi agreed with SARS, ruling Samsung’s “assertion that the product is not a telephone for cellular networks but is a machine akin to a laptop or desktop is disingenuous”.
“That fact that the product has functions found in laptops and desktops does not detract from its principal function of being a telephone for cellular networks,” Mngqibisa-Thusi said.
“I am not convinced that the product is a machine other than a smartphone. Its usage through the internet does not change its nature and objective characteristics.”
Mngqibisa-Thusi dismissed Samsung’s application with costs.