Telecoms Package Universal Service Council Common Position

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Telecoms Package: Directive on universal service and users' rights relating to electronic communications networks and services (Universal Service 2002/22/EC) − Council of European Union Common Position − 2009-02-09



Article 20

Article 20 − Contracts


1. Member States shall ensure that, when subscribing to services providing connection to a public communications network and/or publicly available electronic communications services, consumers, and other end-users so requesting, have a right to a contract with an undertaking or undertakings providing such connection and/or services. The contract shall specify in a clear, comprehensive and easily accessible form at least:

(a) the identity and address of the supplier;

(b) the services provided, including in particular,

- information on the provider's traffic management policies,

- the minimum service quality levels offered, namely the time for the initial connection and, where appropriate, other quality of service parameters, as defined by the national regulatory authorities,

- the types of maintenance service offered and customer support services provided, as well as the means of contacting these services,

- any restrictions imposed by the provider on the use of terminal equipment supplied;

(c) where an obligation exists under Article 25, the subscriber's options as to whether or not to include his or her personal data in a directory, and the data concerned;

(d) details of prices and tariffs, the means by which up-to-date information on all applicable tariffs and maintenance charges may be obtained, payment methods offered and any differences in costs due to payment method;

(e) the duration of the contract and the conditions for renewal and termination of services and of the contract, including:

- conditions regarding minimum contract duration related to promotions,

- any charges related to portability of numbers and other identifiers,

- any charges due on termination of the contract, including cost recovery with respect to terminal equipment;

(f) any compensation and the refund arrangements which apply if contracted service quality levels are not met;

(g) the means of initiating procedures for the settlement of disputes in accordance with Article 34;

(h) the type of action that might be taken by the undertaking in reaction to security or integrity incidents or threats and vulnerabilities.

Member States may also require that the contract include any information which may be provided by the relevant public authorities for this purpose on the use of electronic communications networks and services to engage in unlawful activities or to disseminate harmful content, and on the means of protection against risks to personal security, privacy and personal data, referred to in Article 21(4)(a) and relevant to the service provided.


2. Member States shall ensure that where contracts are concluded between subscribers and undertakings providing electronic communications services that allow voice communication, subscribers are clearly informed as to whether or not access to emergency services and caller location information is provided. Providers of electronic communications services shall ensure that customers are clearly informed in advance of the conclusion of a contract of any limitation on access to emergency services, and of any change to access to emergency services.


3. Member States shall ensure that subscribers have a right to withdraw from their contract without penalty upon notice of modification to the contractual conditions proposed by the undertakings providing electronic communications networks and/or services. Subscribers shall be given adequate notice, not shorter than one month, of any such modification, and shall be informed at the same time of their right to withdraw, without penalty, from their contract if they do not accept the new conditions. Member States shall ensure that national regulatory authorities are able to specify the format of such notifications.


(20) In order to address public interest issues with respect to the use of communications services and to encourage protection of the rights and freedoms of others, the relevant national authorities should be able to produce and have disseminated, with the aid of providers, public interest information related to the use of communications services. This information could include public interest information regarding copyright infringement, other unlawful uses and the dissemination of harmful content, and advice and means of protection against risks to personal security, which may for example arise from disclosure of personal information in certain circumstances, as well as risks to privacy and personal data. The information could be coordinated by way of the cooperation procedure established in Article 33(3) of Directive 2002/22/EC (Universal Service Directive). Such public interest information should be updated whenever necessary and should be presented in easily comprehensible printed and electronic formats, as determined by each Member State, and on national public authority websites. National regulatory authorities should be able to oblige providers to disseminate this standardised information to all their customers in a manner deemed appropriate by the national regulatory authorities. When required by Member States, the information should also be included in contracts.


(22) Given the increasing importance of electronic communications for consumers and businesses, users should be fully informed of the traffic management policies of the service and/or network provider with which they conclude the contract. Where there is a lack of effective competition, national regulatory authorities should use the remedies available to them under Directive 2002/19/EC (Access Directive) to ensure that users' access to particular types of content or application is not unreasonably restricted.


(23) In the absence of relevant rules of Community law, content, applications and services are deemed lawful or harmful in accordance with national substantive and procedural law. It is a task for the Member States, not for providers of electronic communications networks or services, to decide, in accordance with due process, whether content, applications or services are lawful or harmful. The Framework Directive and the Specific Directives are without prejudice to Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 8 June 2000 on certain legal aspects of information society services, in particular electronic commerce, in the Internal Market (Directive on electronic commerce)(OJ L 178, 17.7.2000, p. 1.), which, inter alia, contains a "mere conduit" rule for intermediary service providers, as defined therein.


Article 21

Article 21 − Transparency and publication of information


1. Member States shall ensure that national regulatory authorities are able to oblige undertakings providing electronic communications networks and/or services to publish transparent, comparable, adequate and up-to-date information, as set out in Annex II, on applicable prices and tariffs and standard terms and conditions in respect of access to, and use of, services provided by them to end-users and consumers. National regulatory authorities may specify additional requirements regarding the form in which such information is published to ensure transparency, comparability, clarity and accessibility for the benefit of consumers.


2. National regulatory authorities shall encourage the provision of comparable information to enable end-users and consumers to make an independent evaluation of the cost of alternative usage patterns, for instance by means of interactive guides or similar techniques. Member States shall ensure that national regulatory authorities may make such guides or techniques available, in particular where they are not available, on the market free of charge or at a reasonable price. Third parties shall have a right to use, free of charge, the information published by undertakings providing electronic communications networks and/or services for the purposes of selling or making available such guides or techniques.


3. Member States shall ensure that national regulatory authorities are able to oblige undertakings providing electronic communications services to inter alia:

(a) provide applicable tariff information to subscribers regarding any number or service subject to particular pricing conditions; with respect to individual categories of services, national regulatory authorities may require such information to be provided immediately prior to connecting the call;

(b) inform subscribers of any change to the provider's traffic management policies;

(c) inform subscribers of their right to determine whether or not to include their personal data in a directory, and of the types of data concerned, in accordance with Article 12 of Directive 2002/58/EC (Directive on privacy and electronic communications); and

(d) regularly inform disabled subscribers of details of products and services designed for them.

If deemed appropriate, national regulatory authorities may promote self- or co-regulatory measures prior to imposing any obligation.


4. Member States may require that undertakings referred to in paragraph 3 distribute public interest information free of charge to existing and new subscribers, where appropriate. In such a case, that information shall be provided by the relevant public authorities in a standardised format and shall, inter alia, cover the following topics:

(a) the most common uses of electronic communications services to engage in unlawful activities or to disseminate harmful content, particularly where it may prejudice respect for the rights and freedoms of others, including infringements of copyright and related rights, and their legal consequences; and

(b) the means of protection against risks to personal security, privacy and personal data when using electronic communications services.


Article 22

Article 22 − Quality of service


1. Member States shall ensure that national regulatory authorities are, after taking account of the views of interested parties, able to require undertakings that provide publicly available electronic communications networks and/or services to publish comparable, adequate and up-to-date information for end-users on the quality of their services and measures taken to ensure comparable access for disabled end-users. That information shall, on request, be supplied to the national regulatory authority in advance of its publication.


2. National regulatory authorities may specify, inter alia, the quality of service parameters to be measured and the content, form and manner of the information to be published, including possible quality certification mechanisms, in order to ensure that end-users have access to comprehensive, comparable, reliable and user-friendly information. Where appropriate, the parameters, definitions and measurement methods set out in Annex III may be used.


3. In order to prevent the degradation of service and the hindering or slowing down of traffic over networks, Member States shall ensure that national regulatory authorities are able to set minimum quality of service requirements on an undertaking or undertakings providing public communications networks.


(26) A competitive market should ensure that users enjoy the quality of service they require, but in particular cases it may be necessary to ensure that public communications networks attain minimum quality levels so as to prevent degradation of service, the blocking of access and the slowing of traffic over networks.


Article 28

Article 28 − Access to numbers and services


1. Member States shall ensure that, where technically and economically feasible, and except where a called subscriber has chosen for commercial reasons to limit access by calling parties located in specific geographical areas, relevant national authorities take all necessary steps to ensure that end-users are able to:

(a) access and use services using non-geographic numbers within the Community; and

(b) access all numbers provided in the Community, including those in the national numbering plans of Member States, those from the ETNS and Universal International Freephone Numbers (UIFN).


2. Member States shall ensure that the relevant authorities are able to require undertakings providing public communications networks and/or publicly available electronic communications services to block, on a case-by-case basis, access to numbers or services where this is justified by reasons of fraud or misuse and to require that in such cases providers of electronic communications services withhold relevant interconnection or other service revenues.


(36) A single market implies that end-users are able to access all numbers included in the national numbering plans of other Member States and to access services using non-geographic numbers within the Community, including, among others, freephone and premium rate numbers. End-users should also be able to access numbers from the European Telephone Numbering Space (ETNS) and Universal International Freephone Numbers (UIFN). Cross-border access to numbering resources and associated services should not be prevented, except in objectively justified cases, for example to combat fraud or abuse (e.g. in connection with certain premium-rate services), when the number is defined as having a national scope only (e.g. a national short code) or when it is technically or economically unfeasible. Users should be fully informed in advance and in a clear manner of any charges applicable to freephone numbers, such as international call charges for numbers accessible through standard international dialling codes.


Article 33

Article 33 − Consultation with interested parties


1. Member States shall ensure as far as appropriate that national regulatory authorities take account of the views of end-users, consumers (including, in particular, disabled end-users), manufacturers and undertakings that provide electronic communications networks and/or services on issues related to all end-user and consumer rights concerning publicly available electronic communications services, in particular where they have a significant impact on the market.

In particular, Member States shall ensure that national regulatory authorities establish a consultation mechanism ensuring that in their decisions on issues related to end-user and consumer rights concerning publicly available electronic communications services, due consideration is given to consumer interests in electronic communications.


2. Where appropriate, interested parties may develop, with the guidance of national regulatory authorities, mechanisms, involving consumers, user groups and service providers, to improve the general quality of service provision by, inter alia, developing and monitoring codes of conduct and operating standards.


3. Without prejudice to national rules in conformity with Community law promoting cultural and media policy objectives, such as cultural and linguistic diversity and media pluralism, national regulatory authorities and other relevant authorities may promote cooperation between undertakings providing electronic communications networks and/or services and sectors interested in the promotion of lawful content in electronic communication networks and services. That cooperation may also include coordination of the public interest information to be provided pursuant to Article 21(4)(a) and Article 20(1).


(39) In order to overcome existing shortcomings in terms of consumer consultation and to appropriately address the interests of citizens, Member States should put in place an appropriate consultation mechanism. Such a mechanism could take the form of a body which would, independently of the national regulatory authority and service providers, carry out research into consumer-related issues, such as consumer behaviour and mechanisms for changing suppliers, and which would operate in a transparent manner and contribute to the existing mechanisms for stakeholder consultation. Furthermore, a mechanism could be established for the purpose of enabling appropriate cooperation on issues relating to the promotion of lawful content. Any cooperation procedures agreed pursuant to such a mechanism should, however, not allow for the systematic surveillance of internet usage.


Article 34

Article 34 − Out-of-court dispute resolution


1. Member States shall ensure that transparent, simple and inexpensive out-of-court procedures are available for dealing with unresolved disputes between consumers and undertakings providing electronic communications networks and/or services arising under this Directive and relating to the contractual conditions and/or performance of contracts concerning the supply of those networks and/or services. Member States shall adopt measures to ensure that such procedures enable disputes to be settled fairly and promptly and may, where warranted, adopt a system of reimbursement and/or compensation. Member States may extend these obligations to cover disputes involving other end-users.


2. Member States shall ensure that their legislation does not hamper the establishment of complaints offices and the provision of on-line services at the appropriate territorial level to facilitate access to dispute resolution by consumers and end-users.


3. Where such disputes involve parties in different Member States, Member States shall coordinate their efforts with a view to bringing about a resolution of the dispute.


4. This Article is without prejudice to national court procedures.