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Telecoms: Legal action against Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden closed while Belgian must-carry rules case goes to Court

European Commission - IP/09/1491   08/10/2009

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IP/09/1491

Brussels, 8 October 2009

Telecoms: Legal action against Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden closed while Belgian must-carry rules case goes to Court

The European Commission today decided to take Belgium to the European Court of Justice on "must-carry" rules (imposed on broadcasters in the bilingual region of Brussels-Capital) after it failed to address a final warning issued by the Commission in November 2008 ( IP/08/699 ). In the Commission's view, the rules, which require cable and other network operators to carry radio and TV channels in the Brussels region, are not proportionate. At the same time, the Commission ended legal action taken against Germany on "must carry" rules. It also closed action against Sweden and the Netherlands on other telecoms issues.

Belgium taken to court

The Commission today decided to take Belgium to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for not having changed existing “must-carry” rules imposed on broadcast transmission networks in the Brussels-Capital region. In November 2008, Belgium received a final warning as it has no transparent procedure for designating "must-carry" channels. The Commission also raised the issue of the designation of entire broadcasting companies, and not individual channels, as must-carry. This makes it difficult for broadcasters and network operators to know their rights and obligations.

The ECJ gave, on 13 December 2007, a preliminary ruling on the "must-carry" rules of the bilingual Brussels-Capital region, stating that the procedure for granting must-carry status to broadcasters must be transparent, meaning it should be based on objective non-discriminatory criteria known in advance (see C/250/06 , UPC Belgium and others). Decrees designating specific must-carry broadcasters were annulled by the 'Conseil d'Etat' in 2008 but Belgium maintains that its laws conform to EU telecoms rules.

German must-carry case closed

The Commission today closed a case concerning "must-carry" rules in Germany. This infringement proceeding was based on a complaint about rules obliging cable operators in Germany to broadcast certain public TV channels. A preliminary ECJ ruling of 22 December 2008 clarified that EU provisions do not preclude such "must-carry" rules provided that those obligations do not give rise to unreasonable economic consequences.

Right of appeal broadened in Sweden

The Commission today closed an infringement case against Sweden concerning the ability of users and telecoms operators to appeal decisions of the telecoms regulator to courts. The Commission originally launched the case because Swedish courts in 2004 concluded that there was no right for operators interconnecting with the incumbent's network to appeal a decision of the telecoms regulator laying down obligations for the incumbent ( IP/06/1358 ; IP/07/888 ). Following the ECJ judgement of 21 February 2008 ( C426/05 ), on the right of appeal in Austria, Sweden amended its telecoms rules by extending the scope of the adversely affected party.

Caller location information for 112 emergency calls available in the Netherlands

The Commission today ended legal action against the Netherlands, now that emergency services can locate callers dialling the single European emergency number 112, even when users are unable to say where they are. Following a case launched by the Commission in 2006 ( IP/06/464 ), the ECJ had ruled on 9 October 2008 that the Netherlands had failed to ensure that caller location information is made available for mobile calls to 112 ( IP/08/1529 , Judgment of, case C-230/07 ). The Dutch ministry indicated that caller location for mobile 112 calls would be made fully available to regional emergency services from 30 March 2009. The Commission has received evidence that this is now available, so the case has been closed.

Background

The Universal Service Directive is part of the EU's telecoms rules and requires Member States to ensure a minimum level of availability and affordability of basic services, and guarantees a set of basic rights for the benefit of consumers. Under this Directive, EU countries may set reasonable "must-carry" rules for public policy reasons which must be clearly defined (for example media pluralism) if the transmission networks concerned are the principal source of radio or TV broadcasts for a significant number of customers. Such must-carry obligations must be proportionate and transparent.

112 was introduced in 1991 to provide a single emergency number in all EU countries, in addition to national emergency numbers and works now in all EU Member States ( IP/08/1968 ). Since 1998, EU rules require Member States to ensure that all fixed and mobile phone users can call 112 free of charge. Since 2003, telecoms operators must provide caller emergency services with location information. The Commission has launched infringement proceedings against 14 Member States on caller location since 2005, of which 12 are now closed. Infringements proceedings have additionally been launched and closed against two Member States concerning the availability of 112 and an infringement proceeding is still ongoing against one country concerning the handling of 112 calls.

A detailed overview of telecoms infringement proceedings is available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/policy/ecomm/implementation_enforcement/infringement/


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