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Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Europe's 'Telecom Package' Aims at More Competition and Consumer Rights


The European Parliament is set to adopt a major reform of EU telecoms rules on Wednesday to increase consumer protection, competition and investment in new networks.

The so-called "telecoms package" seeks to strengthen consumer rights and privacy protection, boost investment in new high-speed communications infrastructure, ensure that regulatory measures are applied consistently across the EU and modernise radio spectrum use.

The european parliament will vote on the reform of the regulatory framework for electronic communications - including mobile and fixed telephones, broadcasting, wireless and fixed internet - following a political agreement reached with the Council.

The revised framework directive for electronic communications networks and services is expected to ensure that radio spectrum management is better co-ordinated and harmonised across the EU, especially with a view to the switchover from analogue to digital TV by 2012, which will release a large range of frequencies currently reserved for broadcasting.

The report drafted by Catherine Trautmann (PES, FR), also seeks to strengthen co-operation among national regulatory authorities, the new Body of European Regulators and the Commission to improve the application of the regulatory framework. The proposed new rules expand the tools available to national regulators to include, as "an exceptional measure", functional separation, i.e. a regulatory instrument requiring incumbent operators to separate their network infrastructure from business units offering services that use this infrastructure.

To ensure that the regulatory framework is applied consistently, MEPs, led by rapporteur Pilar del Castillo (EPP-ED, ES) agreed with the Council to set up a European body bringing together all 27 national regulators - the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC).

An important part of the package (report by Malcolm Harbour (EPP-ED, UK) aims to improve consumer rights, such as the obligation on operators to provide more transparent information on tariffs and contractual terms and easier access to e-services for users with disabilities. The aim is also to strengthen personal data and privacy protection, e.g. by requiring access providers to warn internet users of the risk of malicious use of their personal data or other illegal practices. A range of measures to enhance data protection were included in the initial proposal.

Privacy will also be protected such as by forcing Websites to notify an user before it places a "cookie" on a person's computer, a step industry groups challenged.

For additional information visit http://www.europarl.europa.eu


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