Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda said: "Citizens and businesses should take full advantage of the opportunities these new rules give them to get more competitive telecoms services. I will do my utmost to help them to do so. If these rights are not made available in practice, I will take the measures necessary to fix that situation vis-à-vis Member States and telecoms operators."
As of 25th May, the new EU rules give citizens and businesses:
Higher levels of consumer protection and more choice:
- the ability to switch fixed or mobile phone operator without changing phone number within one working day
- a maximum length of 24 months for customer's initial sign-on contracts and an obligation on operators to offer 12 month contracts. This will allow customers to switch more easily to a different operator if they find a better deal
- clearer information on services to which a customer is subscribed. Consumer contracts must give information about minimum service quality levels. In particular, internet subscribers must be given information about traffic management techniques and their impact on service quality, as well as any other limitations (such as bandwidth caps, available connection speed or the blocking or 'throttling' of access to certain services such as Voice Over Internet Protocol). Contracts also must give details of compensation and refunds available if these minimum levels are not met (see MEMO/11/319 ).
Improved online privacy and safety:
- better protection against personal data breaches and "spam" (unsolicited e-mails), mandatory notifications for personal data breaches
- better information and consent requirements for storing or accessing information in users' devices (such as 'cookies' not related to the service currently accessed (see MEMO/11/320 )
More consistent regulation across the EU:
- national regulators will gain greater independence and will have powers, as a last resort, to oblige telecoms operators with significant market power to separate their communication networks from their service branches to ensure non-discriminatory access for other operators (without necessarily separating ownership or obliging the creation of a separate company).
- the 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 (the so-called "Article 7 procedure"). In practice, should theCommission 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, canissue a recommendation to the national regulator to amend or withdraw its planned remedy. National regulatory authorities must take utmost account of such recommendations.
Other new elements in the package include better access to emergency services including 112, Europe's single emergency number.
The Commission's Recommendation indicating to national telecoms regulators how they should regulate third-party competitive access to ultra-fast fibre networks (also known as 'next generation access' – NGA – networks) (see MEMO/10/424) was introduced recently on the basis of new elements in the updated telecoms rules.
The Commission is closely following the implementation of the new telecoms rules by Member States and will use its full powers, recently enhanced by the Lisbon Treaty, to ensure full and timely implementation of the EU's updated telecoms rules in national law. To help Member States implement the new telecoms rules, the Commission has produced guidelines on various issues, such as cookies and universal service.
The revised EU rules on telecoms networks and services were formally adopted by the European Parliament and Council in late 2009. The Parliament and Council agreed that the rules must be implemented into the national laws of the 27 Member States by 25th May 2011.
The two Directives that enter into force on 25th May 2011, 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). A new Regulation setting up the European Body of Telecoms Regulators (BEREC) was also adopted. BEREC was officially established in Riga in May 2010
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Please note: all amounts expressed in sterling are for information purposes only.