Last autumn, the European Commission submitted its proposal for revised legislation on electronic communications. It is a broad packet that includes two Directive proposals and a proposed Regulation. The proposals also reach over into the area of consumer protection.
The proposals in the Directive packet are largely in line with EU consumer protection legislation already in effect. For example, the Commission recognizes that information society cannot develop unless consumer protection is strong.
The Finnish Consumer Agency warmly supports the suggestion that information about prices and limitations should be clearer and more easily available to consumers than they are now. This is especially important because transparency is being clouded by more and more packaged and bundled phone subscriptions, and consumers are being tied to fixed-term contracts of long duration. The position of consumers would also be strengthened by the requirement to include minimum information in consumer contracts about the security of electronic services.
The Directive packet has several stipulations aimed at creating a more tightly knit and uniform single market for electronic communications in the European Union. Indeed, the Commission is seeking the right to issue various binding decisions and recommendations more extensively than before concerning how Directives are applied. Its decision-making power would also be expanded to cover radio frequency management and matters related to consumer protection.
The Consumer Agency regards these schemes with reservation. Since the purpose of the revisions is to strengthen the position of consumers, all means available should also be employed to ensure that there will be no backsliding in countries known for having a high level of consumer protection. At the national level, not only should the well-established principles of consumer law be upheld, but adequate resources and means should also be provided for regulatory authorities to bring service providers into compliance.
The matter continues to be under consideration in the EU.