Consumer-friendly telecom rules come into force across EU

All EU countries are now in line with the directive

From Feb. 20, laws will be in place to help ensure that all 500 million European Union citizens are able to get information on real connection speeds from Internet service providers and switch telecom operators within a day without changing their phone numbers.

These rights have been available in principle since May 2011, but many E.U. member states struggled to put the directive into action and the Commission was forced to launch proceedings against a number of countries.

With the directive now transposed into national law across the E.U., the European Commission, the body charged with seeing the telecom law implemented, is set to drop its last infringement proceeding on Feb 20.

The rules give E.U. citizens and businesses higher levels of consumer protection than existed previously. For example, ISPs must inform customers about possible restrictions on access to particular services, such as voice over IP services, or degradation of such services -- so-called bandwidth throttling.

"Customers should not be led to believe they can access services that in practice are blocked or degraded. Nor should customers be given misleading claims about connection speeds," said a Commission statement.

These rules also require operators to inform individuals about any personal data that is lost. According to the rules now in place, consumers will be able to press for sanctions if the information is not forthcoming.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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