Brussels, 29 October 2009
Telecoms: Commission urges Poland to comply with the judgment of the European Court of Justice on subscribers' rights
The Commission has today decided to send a letter of formal notice to Poland asking it to change the definition of a subscriber of telecoms services in its national law. Despite a judgment from the European Court of Justice in January 2009 (see ) calling on Poland to bring its rules in line with EU law, it has still not changed its rules. This means that subscribers who have not signed a written contract such as pre-paid users, who represent more than half of Polish mobile subscribers, may be deprived of many rights provided under EU telecoms rules. Poland could be fined if it does not change this definition and the case proceeds to the European Court of Justice again. The Commission also closed another infringement on lack of market reviews as Poland notified the Commission of the last remaining market in September 2009.
"I call on Poland to swiftly adopt laws which would ensure that all Polish subscribers can fully benefit from their rights under the EU telecoms rules," said EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding. "These are basic rights and the Commission has once more had to pursue legal action to ensure that Poland complies with the Court's judgment. This said, I welcome the fact that Poland completed the first round of its market reviews. I hope that the Polish regulator will now adopt decisions without delay to remove obligations in the trunk segments of the leased lines market across the country."
Definition of subscriber
On 22 January 2009, the European Court of Justice ruled that Poland failed to correctly transpose the definition of a subscriber of telecoms services into Polish law (see ). In Poland, the term subscriber is limited to someone having a written contract. This deprives subscribers such as pre-paid users of many rights including the right to have an entry in a publicly available directory, the right to receive non-itemised bills, and some rights regarding the presentation of calling line identification or the possibility to stop automatic call forwarding. The Commission today decided to send Poland a letter of formal notice requesting it to comply with the judgement (the first step of an infringement proceeding under Article 228 of the Treaty). If Poland does not swiftly adopt the necessary legal changes it runs the risk of being fined.
One of the cornerstones of the EU telecoms rules is the market analysis and review of obligations. If the market analysis of the national regulatory authority shows that there is no, or only limited, competition on certain telecoms markets, then appropriate regulation should be imposed. National regulatory authorities must notify their findings for assessment to the Commission before implementing the proposed measures. Without timely notification of the proposed measures by national regulatory authorities, there is a risk that the rules applicable to telecoms operators will no longer be appropriate to the level of competition in the relevant markets.
By informing the Commission of its analysis of the remaining part of the market for trunk segments of leased lines (e.g. fast connections between networks that do not include a consumer's access connection) in September 2009, the Polish telecoms regulator, Urząd Komunikacji Elektronicznej (UKE) finished the first round of market reviews. UKE found that competition is effective on 145 long distance lines and that existing regulation concerning those routes should be withdrawn. Under Polish law, UKE needs to issue an additional decision in order to remove obligations from this market.
Under the EU telecoms rules ( [Article 2(k)]) the term 'subscriber' means any natural person or legal entity who or which is party to a contract with the provider of publicly available electronic communications services for the supply of such services. Polish law defines a subscriber as an entity who is party to a written contract. The Commission opened an infringement proceeding for failure to correctly transpose the Framework Directive into national law on 21 March 2005. The period for transposition expired on 30 April 2004 ( ). The application to the European Court of Justice was sent on 7 November 2007. On 22 January 2009, that Poland had infringed EU law.
The Commission started the infringement proceeding concerning the lack of market reviews in October 2005. In April 2006, the Commission had sent a reasoned opinion (the second stage of an infringement proceeding) to Poland for failure to carry out market reviews ( ).
A detailed overview of the telecoms infringement proceedings is available at:
Austria : numbers as of 30.06.2008
Finland : amount of subscriptions on 30.6.2008
United Kingdom : Data as of July 2008
Source: European Commission, 14th Report on the Implementation of