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EU Commission department would like to see single regulator of EU telecoms market

Out-Law News | 14 Aug 2013 | 4:09 pm | 2 min. read

The EU's competition law regulator wants one single body to be responsible for regulating the entire EU telecoms market, according to a newspaper report.

The Financial Times has published leaked contents of a report formed by the Directorate General for Competition (DG Comp) on the European Commission's outline plans to create a pan-EU telecoms market. Previously published EU plans have maintained each country's separate telecoms regulator.

According to the report, DG Comp is keen for reforms to deliver changes to the current way the market is regulated.

"DG Comp considers that creating a true pan-EU regulator would be the most effective solution to remove national divergences,” the report said, according to the Financial Times' report. "Advancing further towards a true single market would require gradually moving away from the present status quo of 28 different national regulators."

Earlier this summer Neelie Kroes, the EU Commissioner responsible for the Digital Agenda, said that a new EU telecoms package would be put forward in early September in a bid to "make it easier to run a network across borders, with better interconnections and new access products".

In a speech in June she revealed plans to introduce a form of 'passport' system that would make it easier for telecoms operators to "break into new markets".

"They [currently] need separate authorisations under separate systems, for each country of operation," Kroes said at the time. "A 'passport' would mean that if you can operate in one member state, you can operate in any member state. Without extra bureaucracy."

The European Commission has long sought to establish a pan-EU telecoms market in order to increase cross-border competition between mobile network operators (MNOs) and drive down so-called 'roaming' costs for consumers. However, telecoms law experts Jon Fell, Florian Von Baum and Emmanuel Gougé of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, previously explained why such a market has never fully materialised

They said MNOs are often put off from operating outside of national borders because of the differing regulatory regimes that are in place across the EU. The MNOs want a more harmonised framework and also want restrictions on network infrastructure sharing relaxed so that they can access rivals' existing networks to provide competing services and not face the cost of installing their own infrastructure, the experts said. In addition, the operators also want competition rules relaxed so as to better enable them to takeover smaller operators based abroad, they added.

In a statement, European Commission spokesperson Jonathan Todd said: "The document referred to in the article is not a special report from "the office of Joaquín Almunia, the EU antitrust commissioner" but is in fact from the Directorate General for Competition (DG COMP).

This document forms part of the normal preparatory process for any policy or legislative initiative being prepared by the Commission. As such, Neelie Kroes's department has been drafting the necessary proposals in close cooperation with all other relevant Commission departments, including DG Competition."

"Neelie Kroes's services are currently finalising the draft legal instrument taking into account the inputs received, and we cannot therefore comment on the substance of the arguments in the article, which apparently refers to an earlier draft. The college of Commissioners is due to adopt the proposals on 10th September. Until such time as there is a final Commission proposal we will of course not comment on the details," Todd added.