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Affordable telecommunications services - users’ rights

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Affordable telecommunications services - users’ rights

The European Union seeks to ensure the availability of a minimum set of good-quality electronic communications services accessible to all users at an affordable price, while minimising market distortion.

ACT

Directive 2002/22/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 March 2002 on universal service and users’ rights relating to electronic communications networks and services (Universal Service Directive).

SUMMARY

The European Union seeks to ensure the availability of a minimum set of good-quality electronic communications services accessible to all users at an affordable price, while minimising market distortion.

WHAT DOES THIS DIRECTIVE DO?

The ’universal service’ directive ensures specific rules for the provision of electronic communications services within the EU. In this context, it:

sets out obligations for the supply of certain mandatory services (universal service);

lays down the rights of end-users and the corresponding obligations on the companies providing electronic communications networks and services available to the public.

KEY POINTS

Universal service obligations

EU countries must ensure that:

electronic communications services of a specified quality and at an affordable price are available to all users in their territory, regardless of their geographical location;

those users who request a connection to the public communications network (i.e. electronic communications services available to the public, such as telephone and internet) at a given place are provided with one (this is important, for example for consumers in rural or geographically isolated areas);

at least one comprehensive telephone directory that is updated at least once a year is made available to end-users;

users who are disabled can benefit from an offer tailored to their needs and at a level equivalent to that enjoyed by other users;

consumers with low incomes have access to special tariffs or receive special help.

To offset the net costs that service suppliers incur as a result of providing a universal service (which is not always profitable), EU countries may introduce mechanisms to compensate them.

Users’ interests and rights

Consumers must receive information enabling them to understand the services to which they subscribe. Contracts must: (i) provide information on the minimum quality standards of service as well as on compensation and refunds if these levels are not achieved, (ii) mention the right to be listed in telephone directories available to subscribers, (iii) include clear information on the qualifying criteria for promotional offers.

The directive also allows for:

the consumer’s right to change fixed or mobile operator in 1 working day while keeping their old phone number;

the need for operators to provide transparent and timely information on prices and tariffs;

a specific obligation on operators to notify where contractual conditions are changed;

obligation for the operator to publish comparable and up-to-date information on the quality of their services;

ability of consumers to access all telephone numbers provided in the EU;

free delivery of the European emergency call number ’112’, with a requirement for operators to transmit emergency services information on the location of the caller;

the promotion of specific ’116’ numbers for standardised services of social benefit, including the phone number for the ’missing children’ emergency line.

WHEN DOES THE DIRECTIVE APPLY?

From 24 February 2002 onwards.

BACKGROUND

The directive is part of the EU telecoms reform package that includes four other directives (the ’framework’ directive, the ’access’ directive, the ’authorisation’ directive and the ’privacy and electronic communications’ directive), as well as the regulation establishing the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC).

For further information, see the European Commission’s website, as well as the ’Your Europe’ website.

REFERENCES

Act

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the EU countries

Official Journal

Directive 2002/22/EC

24.4.2002

24.7.2003

OJ L 108, 24.4.2002, pp. 51-77

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the EU countries

Official Journal

Directive 2009/136/EC

19.12.2009

25.5.2011

OJ L 337, 18.12.2009, pp. 11-36

Corrigendum to Directive 2009/136/EC

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OJ L 241, 10.9.2013, p. 9

Last updated: 12.01.2015

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