UK: BERR Consults On EU Telecoms Reform Proposals

Last Updated: 27 August 2008
Article by Sara George

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) has published a consultation paper on the European Commission's proposals to reform the EU Telecoms Regulatory Framework. The consultation paper contains a summary of the Commission's proposal together with the UK's initial views on them.

The EU's telecoms reform proposals were set out on 13 November 2007 and included key proposals for reform including:

  • The creation of a new European Communications Market Authority to advise on issues including market reviews, cross EU services and network security. It is planned that the authority would replace the European Regulators Group.

  • The introduction of greater spectrum liberalisation.

  • Giving the European Commission the power to veto remedies proposed by national regulatory authorities, following a market review, in order to address a significant market power. The Commission would also have the power to impose its own remedies in certain circumstances to ensure a harmonised framework.

  • Allowing national regulatory authorities to impose functional separation remedies on companies following a finding of a significant market power.

  • Enhancing consumer protection by improving the provision of information and number portability.

  • Enhancing measures to protect network security and network resilience.

BERR is now seeking the views of stakeholders on these proposals, in order that it may formulate its negotiating position with their concerns in mind.

The UK Government endorses the Commission's view that reforms of the existing legislative framework are necessary. In particular, the Government is supportive of the Commission's proposals for the liberalising of the spectrum, empowering consumers and strengthening the powers and the dependence of national regulatory authorities as well as functional separation. However, the Government is not convinced by the need to establish a separate authority in order to do this. In particular it also does not support the proposal to include the EU security agency within the bounds of the planned authority. The Government has indicated that it advocates a preferred approach of creating a politically independent advisory body composed of representatives from national regulatory authorities who are properly resourced to provide expert advice. There are also indications that the Government does not believe there is justification for the Commission to have the power to consent to the imposition of a functional separation remedy although it accepts in principal that the Commission's oversight on remedies should be strengthened.

In order to gauge the views of stakeholders on these new proposals from the EU, the consultation document contains a "regulatory scorecard" which is designed to report on the relative effectiveness of the regulatory framework in the UK and 18 other member states. This ranks the relative strength and weaknesses of the country surveyed, and puts the UK at the highest scoring country overall for effective regulation of the telecoms sector. It also includes an analysis of the key elements of the proposal for the establishment of the Authority, and a note providing information on the existing European Regulators Group. The consultation document also provides an impact assessment considering the cost and benefits of the Commission's proposals, which notes that the Commission's proposals are unlikely to hinder the number or range of suppliers or the ability of operators to compete.

The BERR has invited responses to this consultation by 2 September 2008, whereupon it will prepare its detailed response to the Commission on the proposals.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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