UK Communications Regulator (Ofcom) published a series of proposals at the end of 2019 to implement the 'End User Rights' provisions of the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC). The End-User provisions (Articles 98-116 EECC) require full harmonisation by Member States and Ofcom's proposals set out changes to the administrative rules in the UK that apply to electronic communications service and network providers – so-called General Conditions (GCs). This follows the preliminary UK Government consultation (over the summer of 2019) on implementing the European Electronic Communications Code (no draft legislation has been published to date).
Ofcom's latest proposals to amend the General Conditions cover a range of issues, including:
- Revised definitions in updated General Conditions - to include Number-Independent Interpersonal Communication Services (NI-ICS) and the other revised definitions in the EECC. In particular, Ofcom sets out its view that ‘over-the-top’ messaging services such as WhatsApp, Viber and iMessage are caught as a NI-ICS. Ofcom also notes that the General Conditions definitions may change pending final implementing legislation.
- Consumer protection requirements and transparency obligations – this seeks to implement Articles 102,103 and 104 and Annexes VIII and IX EECC and covers minimum contractual information, the contractual summary and the requirements extend to NI-ICS providers. Ofcom has published separate proposals governing digital comparison tools/accreditation schemes (to ensure the tools are trustworthy, impartial and transparent in line with Article 103 of the EECC) – the deadline to respond is 28 February 2020.
Separately, the European Commission published the final contractual summary template on 30 December 2019 having adopted the implementing regulation on 17 December 2019.
- Measures to strengthen the switching process and empower consumers and end-users – this seeks to implement Articles 105, 106 and 107 EECC and is designed to remove obstacles to switching – measures include requirements relating to contract duration, contract termination and prohibiting mobile phone locking, porting and the treatment of bundles.
- Measures to protect disabled users and emergency video relay - this seeks to implement Articles 109 and 111 EECC. Ofcom proposes strengthened measures to ensure all information required to be transmitted to consumers is provided in a way that is accessible for disabled customers and covers bills, contracts, and other communications (these requirements will apply to NI-ICS).
The deadline to respond to the consultation is 3 March 2020. Ofcom intends to publish a final statement by the summer, with final implementation by 21 December 2020 (the deadline for EU Member States to transpose the EECC into national law).
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