The European Commission adopted on 11th September its most ambitious plan in 26 years of telecoms market reform. Launched by Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in his 2013 State of the Union speech, the “Connected Continent” legislative package, when adopted, will reduce consumer charges, simplify red tape faced by companies, and bring a range of new rights for both users and service providers, so that Europe can once again be a global digital leader. The main benefits to consumers will be as follows:”
1. Open internet. For the first time net neutrality is guaranteed through EU level legislation. Operators are no longer allowed to block, slow down, degrade or discriminate against specific, content, applications or services, except in very limited, concretely defined cases. National authorities are given powers to closely monitor and ensure that this obligation is respected in practice and to impose, if necessary, minimum quality of service requirements.
2. Actual data speed. Operators are obliged to provide clear information about the actual available data speed for downloads and uploads, including at peak-hours. If the actual speed the consumer receives is lower than the advertised speed, the operator will be considered to be in breach of their contract obligations.
3. Guaranteed access to certified comparison tools. In every Member State consumers are guaranteed access to certified comparison tools enabling them to compare the performance and cost of different operators.
4. Easier control of consumption. Consumers can set the maximum amount they want to spend each month and be notified once they reach 80% of this amount. They also have the right to opt for detailed itemised bills, free of charge.
5. No more "lock-in". Consumers will no longer be "locked-in" to a single operator. The minimum duration for telecoms contracts cannot be more than 24 months and each operator must offer at least 1 package with a minimum duration of 12 months or less. Consumers can terminate any contract after 6 months by giving one month's notice.
6. No more automatic extension of contracts. Where contracts can be extended tacitly, consumers must be reminded when the end of their contract is approaching and given and least one month to decline the extension. They can terminate a tacitly extended contract anytime, free of any charge, by giving one month's notice.
7. Easier switching. Consumers can keep their number and the new connection must be activated within one working day. If a consumer has an e-mail address linked to their internet service provider and decides to switch, the operator is obliged to forward their e-mails, free of charge, for 12 months and notify senders about their new e-mail address.
8. Fairer charges for calls and SMS to other EU countries. Calls to other EU countries shouldn't face unjustified surcharges. For fixed calls, they should just be based on the cost of a domestic long-distance call; for mobile calls and SMS to other EU countries, on the maximum regulated roaming prices.
9. No more charges for receiving incoming calls when roaming within the EU.
10. Promoting "Roam-like-at-home". Creating incentives for operators to abolish roaming surcharges, so that consumers traveling within the EU can use their call, SMS and data package as if at home. Goal: by July 2016 consumers in all Member States should have access to at least one operator offering "roam-like-at-home", by default, as part of all their retail packages.