Telecoms Package Universal Service Parliament Second Reading
Telecoms Package: Directive on universal service and users' rights relating to electronic communications networks and services (Universal Service 2002/22/EC) − European Parliament Second Reading − 2009-05-06
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 undertaking;
(b) the services provided, including in particular,
- whether or not access to emergency services and caller location information is being provided, and/or any limitations on the provision of emergency services under Article 26,
- information on any other conditions limiting access to and/or use of services and applications, where such conditions are allowed under national law in accordance with Community law,
- 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,
- information on any procedures put in place by the undertaking to measure and shape traffic so as to avoid filling or overfilling a network link and on how those procedures could impact on service quality,
- 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:
- any minimum usage required to benefit from promotional terms,
- 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 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 such services. This 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, and the availability of easy-to-use and configurable software or software options allowing protection for children or vulnerable persons. 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) End-users should be able to decide what content they want to send and receive, and which services, applications, hardware and software they want to use for such purposes, without prejudice to the need to preserve the integrity and security of networks and services. A competitive market will provide users with a wide choice of content, applications and services. National regulatory authorities should promote users' ability to access and distribute information and to run applications and services of their choice, as stated in Article 8 of Directive 2002/21/EC (Framework Directive). Given the increasing importance of electronic communications for consumers and businesses, users should in any case be fully informed of any limiting conditions imposed on the use of electronic communications services by the service and/or network provider. Such information should, at the option of the provider, specify the type of content, application or service concerned, individual applications or services, or both. Depending on the technology used and the type of limitation, such limitations may require user consent under Directive 2002/58/EC (Directive on privacy and electronic communications).
(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.
(22a) Directive 2002/22/EC (Universal Service Directive) neither mandates nor prohibits conditions imposed by providers, in accordance with national law, limiting users' access to and/or use of services and applications but does provide for information regarding such conditions. Member States wishing to implement measures regarding users' access to and/or use of services and applications must respect the fundamental rights of citizens, including in relation to privacy and due process, and any such measures should take full account of policy goals adopted at Community level, such as furthering the development of the Community information society.
(22b) Directive 2002/22/EC (Universal Service Directive) does not require providers to monitor information transmitted over their networks or to bring legal proceedings against their customers on grounds of such information, nor does it make providers liable for that information. Responsibility for punitive action or criminal prosecution is a matter for national law, respecting fundamental rights and freedoms including the right to due process.
Article 21 − Transparency and publication of information
1. Member States shall ensure that national regulatory authorities are able to oblige undertakings providing public electronic communications networks and/or publicly available electronic communications services to publish transparent, comparable, adequate and up-to-date information on applicable prices and tariffs, any charges due on termination of a contract and information on standard terms and conditions in respect of access to, and use of services provided by them to end-users and consumers in accordance with Annex II. Such information shall be published in a clear, comprehensive and easily accessible form. National regulatory authorities may specify additional requirements regarding the form in which such information is to be published.
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. Where such facilities are not available on the market free of charge or at a reasonable price, Member States shall ensure that national regulatory authorities are able to make such guides or techniques available themselves or through third party procurement. Third parties shall have a right to use, free of charge, the information published by undertakings providing electronic communications networks and/or publicly available electronic communications services for the purposes of selling or making available such interactive guides or similar techniques.
3. Member States shall ensure that national regulatory authorities are able to oblige undertakings providing public electronic communications network and/or publicly available 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;
(aa) inform subscribers of any change to access to emergency services or caller location information in the service they have subscribed to;
(b) inform subscribers of any change to conditions limiting access to and/or use of services and applications, where such conditions are allowed under national law in accordance with Community law;
(ba) provide information on any procedures put in place by the provider to measure and shape traffic so as to avoid filling or overfilling a network link and on how those procedures could impact on service quality;
(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, through the same means as those ordinarily used by the undertakings for their communications with subscribers. 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 − 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 equivalence in 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, including disabled 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.
National regulatory authorities shall provide the Commission, in good time before setting any such requirements, with a summary of the grounds for action, the envisaged requirements and the proposed course of action. This information shall also be made available to BEREC. The Commission may, having examined such information, make comments or recommendations thereupon, in particular to ensure that the requirements do not adversely affect the functioning of the internal market. National regulatory authorities shall take the utmost account of the Commission's comments or recommendations when deciding on the requirements.
(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. In order to meet quality of service requirements, operators may use procedures to measure and shape traffic on a network link so as to avoid filling the link to capacity or overfilling the link, which would result in network congestion and poor performance. These procedures are subject to scrutiny by the national regulatory authority acting in accordance with the provisions of the Framework Directive and the Specific Directives to ensure they do not restrict competition, in particular by addressing discriminatory behaviour. If appropriate, national regulatory authorities may also impose minimum quality of service requirements on undertakings providing public communications networks to ensure that services and applications dependent on the network are delivered to a minimum quality standard, subject to examination by the Commission. National regulatory authorities are empowered to take action to address degradation of service, including the hindering or slowing down of traffic, to the detriment of consumers. However, since inconsistent remedies can impair the achievement of the internal market, the Commission should assess any requirements intended to be set by national regulatory authorities for possible regulatory intervention across the Community and, if necessary, issue comments or recommendations in order to achieve consistent application.
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 regardless of the technology and devices used by the operator, 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 − 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 consumers), 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 − Out-of-court dispute resolution
1. Member States shall ensure that transparent, non-discriminatory, 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. Such procedures shall enable disputes to be settled impartially and shall not deprive the consumer of the legal protection afforded by national law. 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.