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EU unveils new rules for telecoms providers

by Scott Bicheno on 20 November 2009, 15:13

Tags: European Commission

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Tackling telcos

The EU's telecoms commissioner, Viviane Reding, has outlined the 12 most prominent reforms in the new package of rules for Europe's telecoms networks and services.

"The EU telecoms reform brings about consumer choice, a new dose of competition, an effective European system of independent telecoms regulators, new investment into competitive infrastructures, more space for new wireless services and a more open Internet for all citizens," she said.

Here they are:

1. A right of European consumers to change, in 1 working day, fixed or mobile operator while keeping their old phone number: In addition, under the new rules, the maximum initial duration of a contract signed by a consumer with an operator will be no longer than 24 months. Operators must also offer consumers the possibility of agreeing to a contract with a maximum duration of 12 months.

2. Better consumer information: Consumer contracts must specify, among other things, information on the minimum service quality levels, as well as on compensation and refunds if these levels are not met, subscriber's options to be listed in telephone directories and clear information on the qualifying criteria for promotional offers.

3. Protecting citizens' rights relating to internet access by a new internet freedom provision: Any measures taken by Member States regarding access to or use of services and applications through telecoms networks must respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens. "'Three-strikes-laws', which could cut off Internet access without a prior fair and impartial procedure or without effective and timely judicial review, will certainly not become part of European law," said Reding.

4. New guarantees for an open and more "neutral" net: National telecoms authorities will have the powers to set minimum quality levels for network transmission services so as to promote ‘net neutrality' and ‘net freedoms' for European citizens.

In addition, thanks to new transparency requirements, consumers must be informed - before signing a contract - about the nature of the service to which they are subscribing, including traffic management techniques and their impact on service quality, as well as any other limitations (such as bandwidth caps or available connection speed).