EU Commission sends final warning to members to implement new telecom rules

Countries including Germany, France and Spain have two months to comply before they face court actions

The European Commission has issued an ultimatum to European Union countries that haven't implemented telecoms rules set out in the Better Regulation Directive and the Citizens' Rights Directive, giving them two months comply or face court actions and fines, according to a Commission spokesman.

These directives give citizens a number of new rights, including the right to switch telecommunications operators in just one day without changing their phone number, and to be informed about traffic management techniques used by their Internet service provider. The rules also call for more information, and in some cases consent, when online services store information -- such as cookies -- on users' devices.

The Commission started legal actions against the laggards in May. The Commission has now sent what should be considered as a "final warning," according to Ryan Heath, spokesman for Neelie Kroes, who is vice president of the European Commission and responsible for Europe's digital agenda.

The countries now have a two month grace period before the Commission can start court actions that could lead to fines.

"In the February-March time frame, the Commission will start to come down very hard on countries that haven't complied," said Heath.

The size of the fines will depend on how large the country is, and how much of the directives it has yet to implement, according to Heath.

Previously, the ePrivacy Directive, which includes the need to get consent from visitors when cookies are used, has been singled out as a sticking point for some countries.

Belgium has had difficulties associated with the country being limited to a caretaker government, Heath said.

French regulator Arcep recently said that it is now possible for consumers to switch mobile carriers and keep their number in three days. But that won't be enough to appease the Commission.

"The rules clearly say one business day, so anything longer than one business day is not compliant," said Heath.

Only seven countries -- Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Malta, Sweden and the U.K. -- were able to meet the original May deadline, and another four countries have implemented the rules since. Austria has also said it has implemented the rules, but that hasn't been confirmed, according to Heath.

Since these countries have already implemented the new rules, there are no excuses for the ones that haven't, Heath said.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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