By Florence Guthfreund-Roland & Mathilde Hallé
The Legislative Resolution of the European Parliament dated April 3rd, 2014 relating to the telecom sector, following the European Commission’s proposed “Connected Continent Legislative Package” dated 2013, includes a wide range of new requirements aimed at greater consumer protection.
In accordance with the “Europe 2020” digital strategy promoted by the European Commission, consumer protection is one of the key focus of the European Parliament when it comes to regulating the EU telecom sector.
To meet this goal, and thus offer further protection to EU telecom services end-users, the Legislative Resolution of the European Parliament dated April 3rd, 2014 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down measures concerning the European single market for electronic communications and to achieve a Connected Continent (amending Directives 2002/20/EC, 2002/21/EC, 2002/22/EC, and Regulations (EC) No 1211/2009 and (EU) No 531/2012) (the “Proposal”) notably provides the following:
- Net neutrality principle: Electronic communications services providers may agree to set limits on data volumes or speeds for internet access services, provided however that they shall not block, slow down or otherwise alter specific contents or applications. As an exception, traffic management measures can be implemented only if transparent, non-discriminatory, proportionate and necessary either to implement a court order, preserve the integrity of the network, or prevent the effects of temporary and exceptional network congestion (see Art. 23);
- Greater transparency: The Proposal provides for an additional set of mandatory information to be provided to end-users upon subscription. This includes e.g.: (i) a clear explanation as to how any data volume limitation, speed or other quality of service parameters may in practice have an impact on the use of contents and applications; (ii) how to monitor consumption and set caps; (iii) information on unlocking their terminal equipment, (iv) any restrictions imposed on the consumption of regulated retail roaming services at the application domestic price level, and (v) any charges relating to switching and portability of numbers including compensation and refund arrangements in case of delay or abuse (see Art. 20 par. 1; Art. 36, par. 1, 1 j) and k)). The Proposal further provides that BEREC (the Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications) will issue guidelines for the establishment of standard contractual information templates;
- Consumer contract duration and termination: There can be no initial commitment exceeding 24 months, and a 12 month-only option must be offered. In case of fixed term contract, the provider must inform the consumer with a reasonable prior notice so that he/she has at least 1 month to oppose its automatic roll-over. Subscription to additional services shall not re-start the initial contract period, unless if offered at a special price. In addition, consumers must have the right to terminate their contract with no cost (i) upon receipt of a notice of changes in the contract proposed by the provider; (ii) in case of significant discrepancy between the actual performance regarding speed or other quality of service parameters and the performance indicated by the provider (see Art. 36, par. 1, 1 i)).
It is to be noted that the Proposal includes many other directly or indirectly consumer-oriented requirements that relate to, e.g., numbers and identifiers portability (see Art. 36 par. 1, 2 c)) and intra-EU roaming (see Art. 37, par. 6 a)).
Should the Proposal be adopted “as is” by the European Council, its provisions would have to be implemented by Member States within twelve (12) as from its entry into force.
To read the Legislative Resolution of the European Parliament dated April 3rd, 2014, please click on the following link: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P7-TA-2014-0281+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN.