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Competition Policy

Net Neutrality

On 25 November 2015, the EU adopted Regulation (EU) 2015/2120, known as the Telecommunications Single Market (TSM) Regulation. The TSM Regulation sought to provide harmonising rules for net neutrality within the EU and enshrined the principle of net neutrality in EU law for the first time. The TSM Regulation aims to provide an ‘open Internet’ by requiring telecoms operators to treat all Internet traffic equally. In September 2020, the Court of Justice made its first ruling on the matter in two jointly heard cases concerning Hungarian mobile telecoms operator Telenor Magyarország (C-807/18 and C-39/19), who had offered its customers preferential ‘zero-tariff’ access packages. The Court confirmed that telecoms operators such as Telenor Magyarország cannot offer faster internet access at cost, nor can they block or slow down digital traffic, thereby confirming the principle and importance of net neutrality.

‘Zero-Rating’

In February 2017, the Commission published a study by external contractors on so-called 'Zero-rating'. This refers to the practice by internet service providers (ISPs) of not counting the data consumption for certain applications (e.g. WhatsApp, Facebook) or classes of applications (e.g. music streaming services) towards a user's overall data allowance under a particular tariff plan. While ISPs consider zero-rating as a means of attracting users of applications consuming big amounts of data such as music and video streaming services, concerns have been raised about its potential foreclosure effects on competing services that are not zero-rated. In view of the growing importance of zero-rating offers in the EU, DG Competition commissioned a report with a view to gaining a better understanding of the effects of this practice on the market in the context of the application of the competition rules. The study was carried out by the economic consultancy DotEcon, in close collaboration with the telecoms consultancy Aetha and the law firm Oswell&Vahida.

Roaming

The TSM Regulation was also an essential first step in tackling market fragmentation and sought to provide harmonizing rules for roaming within the EU by enshrining the final abolishment of retail roaming surcharges within the EU from 15 June 2017. These surcharges related to the – often high – charges mobile network operators could impose on its subscribers for using mobile and data services outside of the network’s member state. The abolishment of roaming surcharges was carried out with the aim of providing end-users the confidence to stay connected when travelling within the EU.