With Deliberation 15/04/CIR adopted on 3 November 2004, the Italian National Telecommunications Regulator (AGCOM) fully implemented into national law the provisions of the EU legislative framework governing the liberalisation of the market for directory enquiries services (DQ services), and in particular Directive 2002/77/EC on competition in electronic communications networks and services and Directive 2002/22/EC on universal service.
Changes to the Italian regulatory framework prior to Deliberation 15/04/CIR
The liberalisation process of DQ services started with the Law n. 318/1997 (and in particular with Art. 2 thereof), which eliminated all exclusive rights with regard to DQ services in accordance with the EU Directive 96/19/CE. However, that law still maintained universal service obligations on the provision of DQ services which meant that Telecom Italia, the national incumbent operator, was still required to provide DQ services under the terms and conditions issued by the Ministry of Communications (Art. 3 of the Law). Following the abolition of the exclusive rights relating to DQ services, several telecommunications operators, and in particular mobile operators, entered the national market and started providing DQ services.
AGCOM took note of the development of competition in this sector and therefore relied on the possibility offered by the EU legislation to remove universal service obligations on services for which a sufficient degree of competition already existed. The new 2003 Communications Code thus referred to “the existence of several offers in terms of availability, quality and accessible price” and removed any universal service obligation in this respect (Art. 55, paragraph 3).
In the same year, AGCOM adopted Deliberation 9/03/CIR on the National Numbering Plan, which provided for a new set of numbers (i.e. 12XY) dedicated to DQ services, in order to guarantee objectivity, transparency and equal treatment in favour of all interested parties. Deliberation 15/04/CIR is therefore the implementing regulation providing the means for liberalisation of this sector.
The means for opening up DQ services
Prior to the adoption of Deliberation 15/04/CIR, AGCOM conducted a public consultation with all interested parties in order to receive their remarks and opinions on the liberalisation process. Deliberation 15/04/CIR thus represents the final act in the administrative process aimed at allocating the rights to use the new set of 12XY numbers.
Deliberation 15/04/CIR: (i) states that all DQ services should be provided under the new set of 12XY numbers; (ii) consequently removes existing numbers (number 12 for Telecom Italia’s service on fixed lines and 3 digit codes used by mobile operators); (iii) sets out the procedure for the assignment of new numbers; and, (iv) sets out the calendar for implementation, fixing a start date of 1 July 2005 for the new 12XY services.
However, this Deliberation relies on the pre-existence of a new global database, including all the fixed and mobile numbers of consumers who gave their consent in this respect. The calendar for completion of this unique database is under the supervision of the Privacy Authority, which set a 31 May 2005 deadline for the new global database to be ready. This, in turn, means that the new DQ services could start according to the schedule planned by AGCOM on 1 July 2005.
Notwithstanding the above, some pending legal challenges may jeopardise the actual start of the new DQ services by that date. Indeed, most operators filed petitions before the Administrative Tribunal of Lazio, claiming that the provisions of Deliberation 15/04/CIR are illegal and inconsistent. It also appears that some operators are challenging the start date fixed by that Deliberation, as it would not allow for the conditions required to provide the service to be met.
Therefore, even though Deliberation 15/04/CIR represents the end of the regulatory process, its actual implementation still depends on the outcome of the pending claims which should be decided in the coming months.