The European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers have agreed the EU Telecoms Reform after what the EU described as “intense negotiations”, mainly due to a controversial paragraph about protecting internet access under EU law. The reform was originally proposed by the European Commission in November 2007 to strengthen competition and consumer rights across Europe's telecoms markets. There now need to be further votes – probably by the end of November - before the reforms come into force, which could be early next year. EU countries then have 18 months to implement the legislation.
The new rules include:
A right of European consumers to change fixed or mobile operator within one working day while keeping their old phone number.
A maximum initial contract length of 24 months, with a 12-month option always available.
Better consumer information, including details about compensation.
Ensuring that laws about internet access are appropriate, proportionate and necessary; respecting the presumption of innocence and the right to privacy. (Music to the ears of TalkTalk, we reckon).
New guarantees for an open and more ‘neutral’ internet, with national telecoms authorities able to set minimum quality levels.
Consumer protection against personal data breaches and spam, including mandatory notification if the security of any personal data is breached.
Greater political independence for national telecoms regulators.
A new European Telecoms Authority to help ensure fair competition and more consistency of regulation: the BEREC (Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications).
New Commission powers to oversee regulatory remedies proposed by national regulators.
Accelerating the availability of broadband access.
Encouraging competition and investment in next generation access (NGA) networks.