The opening-up of the telecommunications market to competition has acted as a catalyst on a sector previously reserved for oligopolies. To keep up with these changes, Europe's decision-making bodies have adopted legislation in tune with technological progress and market requirements. These developments have given rise to the adoption of a new regulatory framework on electronic communications, the main aim of which is to strengthen competition by making market entry easier and by stimulating investment in the sector. The European Union`s legislation liberalising national electronic communications market was first adopted by all EU Member States in 1998. Since the beginning of the 21st century, several improvements of the EU framework have been made to ensure competition, investment and the creation of a single market in this area. This was done by means of legal directives that are mandatory for transposition in to the EU Members States` legislation. Depending on the date of their issuance, these additions are often reffered to as “The 2003 and 2009 European Union regulatory frameworks”.
The collective name, EU 2003 regulatory framework, encompasses the five following directives:
- Directive 19/2002/19/EC, “The Access Directive” – deals especially with the access obligation that the national regulatory authority can impose on the SMP operators, which means the SMP operators can be obliged to provide access to their networks and services, ensuring non-discrimination, transparency and cost-orientation
- Directive 2002/20/EC, “The Authorisation Directive” – facilitates market entry by requiring a general authorisation regime, which means that everybody can provide electronic communications services without the need for a licence or the need to pay inappropriate fees
- Directive 2002/21/EC, “The Framework Directive” – sets the legal environment required for the independent national regulatory authorities to perform regular market analyses and adopt appropriate remedies when competition is insufficient
- Directive 2002/22/EC, “The Universal Service Directive” – contains several provisions to ensure consumer protection, especially the requirement to ensure that a basic level of electronic communications service is available on the whole territory of the country and for every end-user, even in cases when it would not be provided under normal market conditions
- Directive 2002/58/EC, “The Privacy Directive” – deals with the protection of personal data in electronic communications
Often added to this list is another legal act, Decision 2002/676/EC, “The Radio Spectrum Decision” – which deals with the regulatory framework for radio spectrum policy in the EU.
In December 2009, the European Union (aiming to improve the regulatory environment, customer protection and market competition), amended some of the provisions of the abovementioned framework. The two Directives and one Regulation are known under the collective name of the EU 2009 regulatory framework:
- Directive 2009/136/EC, “The Citizen`s Rights Directive” – provides more protection for the rights of consumers of electronic communications services and amends Directive 2002/22/EC, Directive 2002/58/EC, and Regulation (EC) No. 2006/2004
- Directive 2009/140/EC, “The Better Law-Making Directive” – deals with the independence of the NRAs and the overall regulatory environment and amends Directive 2002/21/EC, Directive 2002/19/EC and Directive 2002/20/EC
- Regulation 1211/2009 establishing the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) - The main task of BEREC is to advise and assist the European Commission in developing the internal market, and to form a link between national regulatory authorities (NRAs) and the Commission
In addition, the European Commission issued on 7 May 2009Recommendation No. 2009/396/EC on the Regulatory Treatment of Fixed and Mobile Termination Rates in the EU.
Another important part of the regulatory framework is the Commission Recommendation 2007/879/EC on relevant product and service markets within the electronic communications sector susceptible to ex-ante regulation in accordance with Directive 2002/21/EC of the European Parliament and of theCouncil on a common regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services. In the document, the European Commission lists the 7 relevant markets where it recommends exercising market analysis and stipulates the methodology to be used when identifying other relevant markets.
In order to encourage innovation and increase productivity, employment and competitiveness, and ultimately to create economic growth and achieve the goals of the Europe 2020 Strategy, on 11th September 2013 the European Commission has adopted the Commission Recomendation on consistent non-discrimination obligations and costing methodologies to promote competition and enhance the broadband investment environment. The recommendation aims to create an environment that is both competitive and investment-attractive for the development of high-speed broadband internet.