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European Commission - Press release
Digital Agenda: Commission insists Latvian consumers should benefit from joined-up mobile networks
Brussels, 14 March 2012 - The European Commission has suspended the plans of the Latvian telecoms regulator which could make it difficult for Latvian consumers to contact friends, family or businesses who use a different mobile network.
The Latvian telecoms regulator (SPRK) want to excuse 13 mobile operators in Latvia from a regulatory obligation under EU telecoms rules to allow their competitors to terminate calls on their networks. Telecoms network operators normally have a monopoly position in the market for voice call termination on their respective networks, and are therefore normally required by national regulators to grant each other access to their networks to connect calls to ensure that customers of one network can call customers on another.
The Commission has serious concerns regarding the Latvian proposal not to use what is known as an "access obligation" (set out in the EU's Access Directive, 2002/19/EC). The Commission is particularly worried that the lack of such an obligation - which is standard in most other Member States - would not allow for a swift resolution of access problems and could, thus, leave consumers unable to make calls to other networks. SPRK's proposal could also make it possible for mobile operators to refuse or delay access to their networks in an attempt to eliminate their direct competitors from the market.
Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda, said: "The prospect of some consumers not being able to make the calls they wish is just not acceptable. For this reason, where we have a monopoly situation like in mobile termination markets, we need to guarantee access to the network for all operators and all consumers."
The Commission, in close cooperation with BEREC (the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications), will discuss with SPRK the issues raised and possible amendments of the proposed measures in order to make them compliant with the EU law and to eliminate the barriers within a single European market which they appear to create. The in-depth review of the notified measures will last up to 3 months. At the end of the process the Commission may issue a recommendation asking the national regulator to amend or withdraw its planned remedy.
Article 7 of the new Telecoms Framework Directive requires national telecoms regulators to notify the Commission, BEREC and telecoms regulators in other EU countries, of measures they plan to introduce to solve market problems.
The Commission's letter expressing serious doubts on SPRK`s draft measure follows the amended "Article 7 procedure" under the Framework Directive of the EU telecoms rules, which came into force in May 2011. The Article 7 procedure leaves some scope for regulators to tailor approaches for achieving effective competition in their national telecoms markets, but requires them to notify draft regulations to the Commission in order to achieve consistency across the EU. Where these regulations concern market definitions and analyses of significant market power, the Commission can require the regulator to withdraw the measure after a two month extended consultation. Where they concern regulatory measures (as in the present case), the Commission may express its serious doubts and start an in-depth review which could last up to 3 months. During that review the Commission, BEREC and the regulator concerned should closely cooperate to identify the most appropriate and effective remedies, in the light of the objective of the EU regulatory framework, whilst taking into account the views of market participants and the need to ensure the development of consistent regulatory practice.
The new rules also enable the Commission to adopt further harmonisation measures in the form of recommendations or (binding) decisions if divergences in the regulatory approaches of national regulators, including remedies, persist across the EU in the longer term
The Commission's letter sent to the Latvian regulator can be found here:
Digital Agenda website: ec.europa.eu/digital-agenda
Neelie Kroes' website: http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/kroes/
Follow Neelie Kroes on Twitter: http://twitter.com/neeliekroeseu