Better mobile and internet services for Europe now introduced

by Ray Clancy on May 25, 2011

New EU rules on smartphones

Expats in Europe, especially those who travel between countries will benefit from new rights and services regarding mobile phones and the internet from today (Wednesday May 25).

New European Union telecoms rules to ensure a more competitive telecoms sector and better services for customers are implemented. They include the right for customers to switch telecoms operators in just one day without changing their phone number, the right to more clarity about the services customers are offered and better protection of personal data online.

New oversight powers for the European Commission and regulatory powers for the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) will create more regulatory certainty and help telecoms operators to grow in a single, pan-European telecoms market. The EC said it has worked closely with member states to seek swift implementation of these EU rules and will consider launching infringement proceedings against those who do not implement them on time.

‘Citizens and businesses should take full advantage of the opportunities these new rules give them to get more competitive telecoms services. I will do my utmost to help them to do so. If these rights are not made available in practice, I will take the measures necessary to fix that situation,’ said Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda.

The rules also introduce a maximum length of 24 months for customer’s initial sign on contracts and an obligation on operators to offer 12-month contracts. This will allow customers to switch more easily to a different operator if they find a better deal and gives clearer information on services to which a customer is subscribed.

Consumer contracts must also give information about minimum service quality levels. In particular, internet subscribers must be given information about traffic management techniques and their impact on service quality, as well as any other limitations such as bandwidth caps, available connection speed or the blocking or ‘throttling’ of access to certain services such as Voice Over Internet Protocol.

Contracts also must give details of compensation and refunds available if these minimum levels are not met.

They also give improved online privacy and safety including better protection against personal data breaches and spam as well as mandatory notifications for personal data breaches and better information and consent requirements for storing or accessing information in users’ devices such as cookies not related to the service currently accessed.

Other new elements in the package include better access to emergency services including 112, Europe’s single emergency number.

The Commission said it is closely following the implementation of the new telecoms rules by member states and will use its full powers, recently enhanced by the Lisbon Treaty, to ensure full and timely implementation of the EU’s updated telecoms rules in national law.

The revised EU rules on telecoms networks and services were formally adopted by the European Parliament and Council in late 2009. The Parliament and Council agreed that the rules must be implemented into the national laws of the 27 Member States by 25th May 2011.

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