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Telecoms Reform Regulations

A series of Regulations are expected to be enacted in early June 2011 to strengthen the rights of telecommunications users, encourage investment in new infrastructure and enhance the regulation and reliability of communications networks.  Some of the key reforms expected to be included in the new Regulations include:

Consumer Rights

  • An entitlement for consumers to change their fixed or mobile operators within one day, while keeping their own telephone number
  • New rules on the maximum duration of contracts. It is expected that the Regulations will provide that service providers must offer consumers the possibility of entering into a contract with a maximum term of 12 months and that they cannot enter into a contract with consumers for an initial term of more than 24 months
  • Requirements for improved consumer information for certain telecoms services, including in relation to minimum service levels and rights to compensation or refunds where these levels are not met, and provisions on access to services by persons with disabilities

Privacy and Data Protection

  • An obligation on certain telecoms providers to inform the Data Protection Commissioner and, in some cases, their customers of security breaches affecting personal data. It is expected that rules concerning privacy and data protection will also be strengthened, including in relation to the provision of information regarding the use of “cookies”

Powers and Consistency of Regulation

  • A power for the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) to oblige telecoms entities to separate their network infrastructure from their retail services operations in order to deal with serious competition or market problems in exceptional cases
  • Provisions to ensure better management of the radio spectrum. The European Commission believes this will help to accelerate broadband access by making radio spectrum effectively available for wireless broadband services in regions where building new fibre infrastructure is too costly
  • Improved access to emergency services, including measures to increase awareness of the European emergency number “112”
  • An obligation on ComReg to work with parties such as the new European Telecoms Authority to ensure the consistent application of the telecoms rules. Furthermore, the new Regulations are expected to allow the European Commission to oversee regulatory remedies proposed by ComReg

Contributed by Claire Waterson.

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