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IP/10/64

Brussels, 28 January 2010

Telecoms: European Commission launches legal action against Italy over databases for telemarketing purposes

The European Commission today took legal action against Italy for not respecting EU ePrivacy rules. According to EU law, subscribers who are included in a public subscriber directory must be informed about the objectives of the directory and consent to the use of their personal data contained therein for marketing purposes. As Italy failed to comply with this obligation, the Commission decided to send a letter of formal notice (the first step of an infringement proceeding).

"Full respect of the privacy of users of telecommunications services is crucial for a modern digital society," said EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding. " The EU Directive on privacy and electronic communications gives individuals a set of tools to protect their privacy and personal data. Not only is it worrying to see that Italian legislation does not comply with the privacy requirements set out in the Directive but that the Italian authorities also further prolonged the use of databases which include personal data for the use of which no consent had been granted. We must ensure that EU rules are respected by all EU Member States so that citizens feel safe in the Telecoms single market and know what use is made of their personal data."

In Italy, databases have been set up for telemarketing purposes on the basis of public subscriber directories, but no explicit consent for the use of this information had been granted by the individuals concerned. The use of these databases was allowed by Italian legislation, Law No. 14 of 27 February 2009, until 31 December 2009 and was then prolonged, for a further six months. According to the information available to the Commission, individuals had neither been informed of their data transfer from the phone directories to the databases set up for marketing purposes nor had they given consent for the inclusion of their personal data therein. The Commission also has concerns that the new provisions in Italy, which allow subscribers to opt out if they do not want their data being used, may not be effectively enforced.

Italy has two months to reply to the letter of formal notice (the first step of an infringement proceeding) that the Commission has decided to send today. If the Commission receives no reply to this letter, or if Italy presents observations that are not satisfactory, the Commission may decide to issue a reasoned opinion (the second stage in an infringement proceeding). If Italy still fails to fulfil its obligations under EU law, the Commission may refer the case to the European Court of Justice.

Background

The EU Directive on privacy and electronic communications ( Directive 2002/58/EC) requires Member States to ensure that subscribers are informed, before they are included in a public subscriber directory, about the purpose of the directory and of any further usages. Member States must ensure that subscribers can determine whether their personal data are included in a public directory and the extent to which their data is relevant for the purpose of the directory. Member States must also ensure that unsolicited communications for purposes of direct marketing are not allowed without the consent of the subscribers concerned. The choice between these options is left to national legislation, but subscribers must have the possibility to opt-in or opt-out.

A detailed overview of telecoms infringement proceedings is available at:

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

And an overview of telecoms infringement proceedings related to 112 is available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/112/docs/table_infring.pdf


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