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IP/10/521

Brussels, 5 May 2010

Telecoms: Commission requests Bulgaria to ensure all fixed phone line customers can keep their number when changing operator

The European Commission has decided to formally request Bulgaria to ensure that all customers can keep their fixed phone number when changing operator, as required by EU telecoms rules. Bulgaria had been given an extended deadline to introduce this requirement by 1 January 2009. The Commission issued a first warning in May last year when the deadline passed without results (IP/09/773). The Bulgarian authorities took action and since July 2009 a large majority of Bulgarian fixed-line phone customers have been able to keep their phone number when changing operator. However, the Commission has now decided to formally request Bulgaria to ensure that the remaining fixed phone subscribers still using analogue lines also have this option. The request is in the form of a 'reasoned opinion' under infringement procedures laid down by the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Article 258 of the TFEU).

EU Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: “Number portability is essential for effective competition on telecoms markets. It is not acceptable that about 10% of Bulgarian fixed-line phone customers still do not have this option and I expect the Bulgarian authorities to address this issue without delay.

Under EU telecoms rules, all customers have the right to switch their mobile or fixed telephone operator while keeping the same phone number. When Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, a special agreement was reached that delayed the introduction of number portability until 1st January 2009. However, despite this additional time, Bulgaria is still the only EU country where fixed number portability has not yet been fully implemented.

The Commission decided to send a reasoned opinion to Bulgaria because a considerable number of fixed-line phone customers who still have an analogue connection cannot retain their phone number when changing telecoms operators.

Mobile phone users in Bulgaria have been able to keep their numbers when switching operators since April 2008. The majority of fixed phone customers have also been able to switch operators and keep the same number since 1 July 2009. However, since about 10% of the fixed lines in Bulgaria are still analogue, technical limitations mean that Bulgaria does not completely fulfil its obligations under EU telecoms rules. The reasoned opinion therefore requires Bulgaria to comply with EU telecoms rules by taking adequate measures to ensure full availability of fixed number portability for all customers.

Bulgaria now has two months to comply with the reasoned opinion. If Bulgaria fails to comply within this period, the Commission may refer the case to the European Court of Justice.

Background

EU telecoms rules require Member States to ensure that all telephone subscribers can retain their phone number no matter which phone operator they are using, for both fixed and mobile phone services.

This infringement procedure is based on Directive 2002/22/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 March 2002 on universal service and users’ rights relating to electronic communications networks and services (Universal Service Directive). The revised EU telecoms rules adopted in November 2009 and to be fully implemented by May 2011 foresee stricter rules on number portability and require that consumers must be able to change their phone operator within one working day while keeping their number (MEMO/09/568). On average across the EU, it currently takes 4.1 days for a mobile number and 6.5 days for a fixed number to change operator while keeping the same number.

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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