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Digital Agenda: Commission requests France and Spain to end 'telecoms taxes'

European Commission - IP/10/1211   30/09/2010

Other available languages: FR DE ES

IP/10/1211

Brussels, 30th September 2010

Digital Agenda: Commission requests France and Spain to end 'telecoms taxes'

The European Commission has today decided to request France and Spain to abolish specific charges on the turnover of telecoms operators introduced when the Member States concerned decided to end paid advertising on public TV channels. In both cases, the Commission considers these "telecoms taxes" to be incompatible with EU telecoms rules, which require specific charges on telecoms operators to be specifically and directly related to covering the costs of regulating the telecoms sector. The requests take the form of "reasoned opinions" under EU infringement procedures. France and Spain now have two months to inform the Commission of measures taken to comply with EU telecoms rules. If they fail to do so, the Commission may refer them to the EU Court of Justice.

It is the Commission's view that the charges in France and Spain, which were introduced in order to compensate for the loss of revenue from paid advertising on public TV channels, are incompatible with EU telecoms rules. Under these rules (in particular Article 12 of the telecoms Authorisation Directive (2002/20/CE), charges can be levied on telecoms operators to cover only certain administrative and regulatory costs (mainly authorisations and regulatory functions) and should be objective, transparent and proportionate. Moreover, interested parties must also be consulted in an appropriate manner of any amendments of charges applied to telecoms operators.

France

The French charge on telecoms operators was introduced in March 2009 after the decision was taken by the French Government to end paid advertising on public TV channels. This charge is imposed on authorised telecoms operators which provide services in France. They pay 0.9% of their total revenues exceeding €5 million received from subscribers. The annual revenue from the new charge, which is paid to the French Treasury, is estimated at around €400 million.

Spain

A law on financing the Spanish public broadcaster RTVE entered into force in September 2009 and imposed a charge of 0.9% on the gross revenues of telecoms operators to make up for the loss of revenue from paid advertising on the Spanish national public broadcaster. A limited number of operators were exempted from paying this charge based on the geographical scope and the type of telecoms services they provide. The charge is expected to generate revenue of around €230 million in 2010.

Background

On 20 July 2010, the Commission decided that the new financing systems in France and Spain for national public television broadcasters France Télévisions (IP/10/979) and RTVE (IP/10/978) respectively were compatible with EU state aid rules inter alia because they did not give rise to disproportionate distortions of competition between public and private broadcasters as there would be no over-compensation for the costs of their public service missions. However, these state aid decisions were without prejudice to the compatibility of the charges on telecommunications companies with EU telecoms rules, and in particular the Authorisation Directive (2002/20/CE).

An overview of telecoms infringement proceedings is available at:

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

For more information on infringement procedures, see MEMO/10/457.


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