The main rights and principles are access to an internet connection, use of services of your choice, mon-discrimination and protection of personal data.

Access to an internet connection

EU citizens must have the possibility to access a minimum set of electronic communications services of good quality at an affordable price. This is also known as the 'universal service' principle.

Access to electronic communications networks and services

Everyone in the EU must have the possibility to access a minimum set of electronic communications services of good quality at an affordable price. This is also known as the 'universal service' principle.

As regards rights of access to internet, all reasonable requests for connection at a fixed location to a public communications network must be met by at least one operator.

Such connection must be capable of supporting voice, fax and data communications at data rates that are sufficient to permit functional internet access and the provision of voice telephony services.

This also applies to disabled end-users who must have equivalent access and choice to that enjoyed by the majority of consumers.

Use of services of your choice

Everyone in the EU shall be able to access and distribute any information, and to run any application and service of their choice through electronic communication networks. This is also known as the principle of 'open and neutral character of the internet'.

Access to services and applications of your choice

  • Everyone in the EU shall be able to access and distribute any information and to run any application and service of their choice through electronic communication networks.

    The fundamental rights and freedoms of natural persons as guaranteed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and the general principles of EU Law shall be respected in this context.

    For this reason, any measure related to consumers' access to or use of services and applications liable to restrict those fundamental rights or freedoms could only be imposed by a Member State if appropriate, proportionate and necessary within a democratic society.

  • Regulatory authorities in the electronic communications area must promote the ability of everyone in the EU to access and distribute any information and to run any application and service of their choice. This is also known as the principle of 'open and neutral character of the internet'.

    These regulatory authorities have the power to set minimum quality of service requirements in case of problems to safeguard the openness of the internet. In order to prevent the degradation of service and the hindering or slowing down of traffic over networks, Member States shall ensure that national regulatory authorities are able to set minimum quality of service requirements on an undertaking or undertakings providing public communications networks.

  • Every disabled consumer must benefit from the choice of e-communication providers and services available to the majority of consumers.

    For consumers with a visual or hearing disability providers of audiovisual media services are encouraged to ensure that their programmes, e.g. films, sports events, situation comedies, documentaries, children's programmes or original dramas, as well as commercial communications are gradually made accessible to them.

    This obligation applies irrespective of the type of service and of the delivery platform, as long as the latter relies on electronic communications networks, therefore covering also audiovisual media services purchased online.

  • Minors are protected in relation to audiovisual media programmes and commercial communications which might seriously impair their physical, mental and moral development. Such content can only be made available online in the EU on explicit request, and only in a manner that ensures that minors will not normally hear or see such services.
  • Incitement to hatred based on race, sex, religion or nationality is forbidden in audiovisual media services. Governments must ensure that neither audiovisual media programmes nor audiovisual commercial communications that are delivered online contain any such incitement.

Non-discrimination

When EU consumers try to access services online, service providers shall not apply less favourable conditions on grounds of their Member State of residence unless the differences are justified by objective criteria.

Non-discrimination when accessing services provided online

  • Consumers who wish to acquire online services12 in another Member State shall be granted access by traders to public information on the conditions of access.
  • When consumers try to access services online, service providers shall not apply less favourable conditions of access to the service to consumers on grounds of their Member State of residence unless the differences are justified by objective criteria. Upon the consumer's request, traders shall use their best endeavours to inform consumers of the justification for differences in treatment.

Protection of personal data

In the EU, personal data protection is a fundamental right enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Every EU citizen has the right to adequate protection of his personal data. These general data protection rights also apply online, where individuals have in addition the following rights:

  • To be fully informed and give their agreement if a website stores and retrieves information from their terminal equipment or wants to track them when they surf the internet;
  • Confidentiality of their online communications, such as emails;
  • To be notified if their personal data held by their Internet Service Provider has been compromised, e.g. lost or stolen, and their privacy is likely to be adversely affected;
  • Not to be sent unsolicited commercial communications, known as 'spam', unless they have given their agreement.

Privacy, protection of personal data and security

Personal data protection is a fundamental right, and is also enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty. The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union provides that "Everyone has the right to the protection of personal data concerning him or her. Such data must be processed fairly for specified purposes and on the basis of the consent of the person concerned or some other legitimate basis laid down by law. Everyone has the right of access to data which has been collected concerning him or her, and the right to have it rectified".

Every individual has the right to adequate protection of his personal data17 . Processing of personal data must be necessary, fair, lawful and proportionate. The data that individuals provide directly or indirectly must not be used for purposes other than originally intended. Nor can such data be passed on indiscriminately to entities that the individual has not chosen to be involved with. These rights apply to everyone, irrespective of nationality or place of residence. Personal data revealing racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade-union membership, and the processing of data concerning health or sex life is only permitted with explicit consent of the individual, where allowed by national legislation.18

  • Individuals have the right to receive information from people and companies holding some of their personal data in their files, such as websites, data bases, service providers etc. (“data controllers”), and they have the right to correct or erase this data if it is incomplete or inaccurate:
    • Data controllers are required to inform consumers when they collect personal data about them;
    • Individuals have the right to know the name of the controller, the intended use of the data processing, and to whom the data may be transferred;
    • Individuals are entitled to ask the data controller whether he is processing personal data about them;
    • Individuals have the right to receive a copy of the data that relates to them in intelligible form;
    • Individuals have the right to ask for the deletion, blocking or erasing of the data if it is incomplete, inaccurate or obtained unlawfully. Individuals have the right to object to the processing of personal data.
  • Individuals have the right not to be subject to a decision which produces legal effects concerning them or that significantly affects them and which is based solely on automated processing of data intended to evaluate certain personal aspects relating to them, such as their performance at work, credit worthiness, reliability, conduct, etc.
  • These rights also apply online, where individuals have in addition the following rights.
  • To be fully informed and give their agreement if a website stores and retrieves information from their terminal equipment or wants to track them when they surf the internet;
  • Confidentiality of their online communications, such as emails;
  • To be notified if their personal data held by their Internet Service Provider has been compromised, e.g. lost or stolen, and their privacy is likely to be adversely affected;
  • Not to be sent unsolicited commercial communications, known as 'spam', unless they have given their agreement.