In May 2015, as part of its Digital Single Market Strategy, the European Commission published proposals to reform the EU telecommunications regulatory framework. Following a series of consultations in 2015, the Commission published further proposals to reform the EU legislation in September 2016, with the aim of improving internet connectivity across the EU. The proposals included: a directive setting out a European Electronic Communications Code (the Code), to replace the existing four key telecommunication directives; a regulation to increase the powers designated to the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications, BEREC, including to contribute to the consistent application of the measures laid down by the Code (the Regulation); and an action plan for the development of 5G in Europe .
The Code sets out EU-wide common rules and objectives on how the telecoms industry should be regulated and it applies to providers of networks and/or services. In particular, it brings the rules up to date with technological developments since the current regulatory framework was first established (including more prevalent internet use and less traditional telephony) and safeguards consumer choice .The Regulation includes new rules on cheaper intra-EU calls that set a maximum rate for both the retail price of mobile or fixed calls from a consumer’s home country to another EU country as well as intra-EU text messages. The new caps will apply as early as 15 May 2019.
The Code and the Regulation were published in the EU Official Journal and entered into force on 20 December 2018. Member states have two years (i.e. until December 2020) to implement the directive setting out the Code into national legislation.
The draft Withdrawal Agreement agreed with EU negotiators in November 2018 includes a transition period through to 31 December 2020, during which EU law will continue to apply in and to the UK. If the draft Withdrawal Agreement is finalised and approved before the UK leaves the EU, the UK government will still be required to implement the directive setting out the Code into national legislation within the same timeframe (i.e. prior to the end of the Brexit transition period).
The UK government has suggested in its “no deal Brexit” technical note that if the Code is adopted before exit day but with a transposition date post-exit it would still be minded to implement the Code’s substantive provisions in a similar timetable, on the basis that it would support the UK’s domestic policy objectives.
The Directive establishing the European Electronic Communications Code can be found here.
The Regulation establishing the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications can be found here.