The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) has reportedly criticised proposals which were recently adopted by the European Commission (EC) for reform of the regional telecoms industry. According to the Financial Times, BEREC, which represents the 28 national telecoms regulators, has argued that the reforms have been ‘rushed through’ and has suggested that they could jeopardise investment and competition, as well as hurt consumers. Such criticism echoes sentiments from industry players and from within the Commission itself.
With BEREC having argued that the state of the telecoms sector in Europe was ‘not quite as bleak as has been suggested’, it has claimed that the new regulations will undermine the legal certainties needed for companies to consider investments. Meanwhile, although the reform package, which was passed under the ‘Connected Continent’ banner, did not tackle industry calls to ease barriers to consolidation in a fragmented market, BEREC noted that the new guidelines represented a shift ‘from the current approach based on pro-competitive regulation towards one that favours market consolidation’. Also of note, despite there being no attempt to bring industry regulation under a single pan-European watchdog, as had been recommended by EU antitrust commissioner Joaquin Almunia, BEREC is said to remain concerned that the reforms represent a ‘substantial shift in the balance of power between the commission, member states and national regulatory authorities’. Commenting on the overall package, the organisation stated: ‘These proposals risk undermining the ability of national regulators, whether acting individually or collectively, to take appropriate and proportionate regulatory action in all the relevant markets.’
In response to the continued criticism, the EC’s Commissioner for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes was cited as saying: ‘I will review carefully all the feedback we are getting. It’s important to keep an open door, as I have over the past months … BEREC’s input has been essential in the drafting of the regulation, and they’ll remain essential in the implementation, no doubt about it.’
As previously reported by CommsUpdate, last week the EC adopted the Connected Continent reform package, with key aims including: the introduction of EU-wide and roaming-free mobile plans; simpler rules to help companies invest more and expand across borders; the first-ever EU-wide protection of net neutrality; and the abolition of premiums for international phone calls within Europe.