Europeans will enjoy new rights and services regarding phones, mobile and Internet, thanks to the
revised EU rules on telecoms networks and services. The rules, adopted by the European Parliament and Council in late 2009, had to be implemented into national laws of the EU-27 countries by 25th May 2011.
The two Directives that entered into force on that date, the Better Regulation Directive and the Citizens’ Rights Directive, amend five different existing EU Directives (Framework Directive, Access Directive, Authorisation Directive, Universal Service Directive and the e-Privacy Directive) ensuring a more competitive telecoms sector and better services for customers.
Easier to switch operators
Telephone and internet customers will now enjoy significant new rights, including more transparency, guaranteed quality of service and the right to switch (fixed or mobile phone) operators within one working day, while keeping the same phone number.
The new rules also make it easier for customers to switch phone operators by preventing operators from binding in customers with contracts of three years or more, the maximum duration of such contracts now being twenty four months. Under the new rules operators must give comprehensive and accurate information to customers in advance – before customers sign a contract – about what they can or cannot do with the communications services to which they are subscribing, providing information about minimum service quality levels, in particular about traffic management techniques and their impact on service quality, as well as any other limitations.
Under the new EU rules national telecoms authorities now have the power to set minimum quality levels for network transmission services so as to promote “net neutrality” and “net freedoms”.
Securing of personal data
The new rules also require operators to secure personal data, such as names and email addresses properly and to inform their customers and data protection authorities promptly when personal data is lost.
The rules also require Internet users to be better informed about data other parties store or access on their devices. With this data is not related to the service currently accessed by the user, the user has to give their consent before the data is stored or accessed and must, before being asked for consent, be given information about what the data collected is to be used for (e.g. for targeted behavioural advertising).
In addition, the new rules strengthen and clarify the legal requirements for fighting spam (unsolicited emails), improving the cooperation between EU enforcement authorities and giving internet service providers the right to take legal action against spammers.
More regulatory certainty
The new telecoms rules will create more regulatory certainty and help telecoms operators to grow in a single, pan-European telecoms market.
National regulators will now have greater independence and the power to, as a last resort, oblige telecoms operators with significant market power to separate their communication networks from their service branches to ensure non-discriminatory access for other operators (so-called ‘functional separation’).
The European Commission, in cooperation with the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC), has also been granted extra powers of oversight on the competition remedies for the telecoms markets. In practice, should the Commission consider that a draft competition remedy notified by a national regulator would create a barrier to the Single Market for telecoms services, the Commission can proceed to an in-depth assessment and, in consultation with BEREC, can issue a recommendation to the national regulator to amend or withdraw its planned remedy.