As an example, Germany (as well as many other countries) requires that all SIM cards are registered to a real person:

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However registration-free SIM cards are available in nearby countries and roaming within the EU is free of charge since June 2017, so anyone wishing to stay anonymous can easily do so. So what's the point of having restrictive laws within Germany itself? Can't any German criminals/terrorists/evil citizens get an anonymous SIM card from Poland or Czech Republic if they need to?

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    Because it would either be expensive to make roaming calls, and mainly because, in my experience, prepaid SIM card do not support roaming calls at all. Apr 28, 2017 at 10:22
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    "roaming within the EU is extremely cheap" <- Is that really true? I never was affected but the fact that the EU spend years trying to put a limit on roaming costs (which they just recently managed) somehow allways gave me the impression that its quite a costly thing to use your mobile in another country. Apr 28, 2017 at 10:48
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    @dan-klasson not valid within the EU - for 10 years now roaming is quite cheap and prepaid cards do support it: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union_roaming_regulations. Before 2007 roaming was expensive, but nothing beyond the reach of a criminal (or an ordinary citizen, for that matter). Apr 28, 2017 at 10:54
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    @JonathanReez again, reasonable is subjective to what one earns (or has tucked away). Apr 28, 2017 at 12:44
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    The white paper you link to outlines a few reasons for requiring registration of prepaid SIM card users. Interestingly, security isn't one of them. Could you please update your question to clarify why the linked material doesn't answer it sufficiently?
    – yannis
    Apr 28, 2017 at 12:56

2 Answers 2


Different places are different; it is not expected for them to always have the same laws.

Ease of evading is a consideration in making laws, but certainly not the only one. That everything can't be done right away is a silly reason to do nothing.

The countries that have banned seem to think it is more of a problem then it's worth. The other countries disagree. Some of the banning countries don't seem to worry about it enough to ban importing them from the allowing countries.

In terms of tracking the point is it reduces the number, if we have to watch a million prepaid phones we need more resources than if we have to watch 10 thousand. And (awhile) after a ban we can strongly suspect that every one has ties to another country. A simplification of the problem.


Addition to the answer by @user9389: Most of the European countries established their legislation when terrorism was high on the public agenda as a part of law and order policies. Law and order policies do not neccessarily have to be effective, many of them are rather symbolic or bet on deterrence.

Sources: https://www.derstandard.at/story/2000063296712/verbraucherschuetzer-kritisieren-keine-prepaid-karten-bei-aldi-fuer-fluechtlinge https://netzpolitik.org/2017/interaktive-karte-registrierungspflicht-fuer-prepaid-sim-karten-in-europa-weit-verbreitet/#comments https://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/Aus-fuer-anonyme-SIM-Karten-Bundesrat-bestaetigt-neues-Anti-Terror-Paket-3262235.html https://web.archive.org/web/20130818090241/http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/pdf/policies/police_cooperation/evidence_en.pdf

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    Can you provide some references as quotes from leaders and/or policy changes to indicate and duly illustrate your point? Aug 2, 2020 at 15:05

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