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European Commission to bring online telecoms regulations into line, says report

The European Commission plans to introduce new rules for online text message and phone services such as Viber and Skype, the Financial Times has reported.20 Apr 2015

According to a draft document seen by the Financial Times, the Commission will call for new regulations to create a fair marketplace for traditional telecommunications companies and newer alternatives.

Companies providing 'over the top' services, where voice calls and messages are sent over the internet, are "not subject to the same rules" as other telecoms companies, the document says, according to the Financial Times.

The power of these new players is "potentially raising concerns", the document says. The Commission also proposes simplified ways of removing illegal content from the internet, and copyright reforms, the report said.  

The European Commission is looking to create a 'connected digital single market' across EU member states. It will propose details next month on how this can be achieved.

"Further reforms of the European telecommunication markets are high on the Commission's agenda as it seeks to encourage investment in infrastructure," said competition expert Sammy Kalmanowicz of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com.

"The Commission has previously encountered strong resistance in its attempts to reform the telecommunication markets and this initiative will also be an uphill struggle. However, the Commission remains determined to create a true digital single market through legislative and regulatory initiatives, and we will gain an insight into its game plan when it presents its Digital Single Market Strategy on May 6," he said.

"Where it has jurisdiction to unilaterally further its cause, such as policing competition rules underpinning the single market, the Commission has already taken action, including stating its intention to launch an e-commerce sector inquiry and investigations into online platforms," said competition expert Guy Lougher, also of Pinsent Masons.

"The borderless nature of digital technologies means it no longer makes sense for each EU country to have its own rules for telecommunications services, copyright, data protection, or the management of radio spectrum," the Commission's Single Digital Market website says.

This market will create "up to €340 billion" in additional growth, hundreds of new jobs and a vibrant knowledge-based society", it says.

In a statement in March, the Commission said the proposed inquiry would "focus on private – and in particular contractual - barriers to cross-border e-commerce in digital content and goods".

There are "indications that some companies may be taking measures to restrict cross-border e-commerce" and the inquiry will aim to uncover more information about the alleged practices and how to address them.