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Friday, June 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Sweeping New Rules for Telecoms Adopted in EU

WASHINGTON (CN) - The European Parliament has approved a wide ranging reform of the European Union's telecommunication rules that include the consumer right to switch mobile operators within a day while keeping their number, to be informed about service levels and more information on promotions.

The reforms were first proposed by EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding, two years ago. The Telecoms Reform Package is the first substantive change in European telecoms rules since 2002.

Nearly 500 million telecoms consumers in the EU will benefit from a number of new rights such as such as the right to switch fixed or mobile operator in one working day while keeping their number; the right to be better informed about the services they subscribe to, including information on the minimum service quality levels, as well as on compensation and refunds if these levels are not met.

The new rules also require that the telecoms provide clear information on the qualifying criteria for promotional offers and gives consumers the right to be informed about data breaches by their telecoms operator. Operators must also give consumers the option of 12 month contracts.

The European Parliament added guarantees for open, neutral internet access and choice. 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 limitations on bandwidth caps or available connection speeds.

The telecoms authorities of member nations will not be allowed to restrict internet access for public policy reasons unless the proposed restrictions are vetted by judicial review and any regulation imposed at the national level can be appealed to the EU Telecoms Commission.

The reform package includes new privacy protections for consumers and for the first time requires operators to disclose data breaches, specifically to each person whose data has been accessed, and operators will be required to protect personal information, as well as information on every phone call or internet session.

Finally a new body of national regulators called the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) will be established to replace the ad hoc assembly of national authorities and to enforce consistent rules for competition and access across member states.

Member nations will have until June 2011 to incorporate the reform package into national legislation while the BEREC is expected to be up and running by the spring of 2010.

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