IAS 18 — Subscriber acquisition costs in the telecommunications industry
The IFRIC considered how a provider of telecommunications services should account for telephone handsets it provides free of charge or at a reduced price to customers who subscribe to service contracts. The question was whether:
- the contracts should be treated as comprising two separately identifiable components, i.e. the sale of a telephone and the rendering of telecommunication services, as discussed in paragraph 13 of IAS 18 Revenue. Revenue would be attributed to each component, or
- the telephones should be treated as a cost of acquiring the new customer, with no revenue being attributed to them.
Decision not to add
The IFRIC acknowledged that the question is of widespread relevance, both across the telecommunications industry and, more generally, in other sectors. IAS 18 does not give guidance on what it means by ‘separately identifiable components’ and practices diverge.
However, the IFRIC noted that the terms of subscriber contracts vary widely. Any guidance on accounting for discounted handsets would need to be principles-based to accommodate the diverse range of contract terms that arise in practice. The IASB is at present developing principles for identifying separable components within revenue contracts. In these circumstances, the IFRIC does not believe it could reach a consensus on a timely basis. The IFRIC, therefore, decided not to take the topic onto its agenda.
IFRIC reference: IAS 18-1