The European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) will give EU citizens more consumer rights when dealing with telecommunications companies, including best tariff advice and increased contractual transparency.
It’s safe to say that most people who have home broadband or who own a mobile phone have, at some time in the past, had some issue with their provider.
Whether it was to do with a bill, porting your phone number, or simply a connection problem, we all know how frustrating it can be when things go wrong.
That’s why it’s incredibly important to be aware of your consumer rights, especially for communications services that you use every day.
In this article we’ll be taking a look at the European Electronic Communications Code (EECC) which sets out new consumer protection measures for users of telecoms services across EU member states.
And with the December 21st deadline for implementation of the directive now here, there’s no better time to find out what’s changing and what you should be aware of.
While the code itself encompasses many areas, including new measures to encourage investment in networks, in this article we’ll focus on the more important consumer protection updates that consumers should be aware of going into the new year.
But first, a brief explanation of what the EECC is.
The European Electronic Communications Code (EECC)
The EECC is a 2018 EU Directive that sets out regulatory parameters for the provision of electronic communications, networks and related services across the European Economic Area.
In the context of this article, an electronic communications service (ECS) refers generally to broadband and mobile phone services.
The EECC is a directive which means that member states in the European Union must adapt their existing telecommunications regulations in accordance with the new rules by 2020. The deadline for adoption of the directive in Ireland is Monday, December 21st.
The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) is the body responsible for the regulation of the telecommunications sector in Ireland and is scheduled to issue further guidance soon on the impact and application of the consumer rights set out in the directive and as discussed below.
What’s changing for consumers?
Contractual information requirements
Under the directive, ECS services are obliged to provide what is called a Contract Summary to customers free of charge before signing up to a new contract. This must be sent to and accepted by the customer before the sign-up process can take place, i.e. before the official contract is signed.
The aim of the Contract Summary is to allow consumers to compare different suppliers and their products more easily before finalising a contract. This in turn allows for greater transparency and clarity for consumers before committing to any one provider, product, or service.
The contract summary template will include some of the important information below:
- Main characteristics of each service provided
- Prices for the service/products, as well as any recurring charges
- Duration of the contract and conditions for renewal and termination
- The extent to which the products and services are designed for people with disabilities
Furthermore, each contract summary must be provided on a “durable medium” to customers. This can be a printed document posted to a customer, or via email, for example.
While most providers will treat the Contract Summary as a box-ticking exercise, the document itself can be a really useful one from a consumer perspective, helping to give you a bit more information and clarity before making a final decision.
Like with any contract, it's always advisable to read through everything thoroughly before putting pen to paper to make sure you know exactly what you're signing up for.
Transparent comparisons and publication of information
The EECC sets out that ComReg should provide at least one comparison tool free of charge for consumers to use in order to be able to compare ECS services.
The code also explains that the comparison tool should be independent from ECS providers with the following criteria:
- Provide accurate and up-to-date information with time of the last update
- Use simple language
- Display the objective criteria on which the comparison is based
- Disclose the owners/operators of the comparison tool
As it stands, ComReg already provides its own online comparison tool to compare communications services including broadband, mobile/home phone, and television services.
However, customers of bonkers.ie will already know that we’re an independent and impartial comparison website that’s completely free to use when comparing your broadband, home phone, and TV. You can use our comparison tool online right now and find the best deal for you in a matter of minutes.
The code also requires that the processing of personal data by ECS services, whether for paid services or marketing purposes, should be GDPR compliant.
Contract duration, termination and renewal
Another important aspect of the new changes for consumers concerns the duration of contracts and how consumers are treated by providers when it comes to renewal time.
At the moment, providers benefit from not having to inform customers when their contract is up, meaning many customers often end up paying more than they have to when their contract expires even though they could switch to a different and cheaper plan.
For this reason providers must now give at least one month's (30 days) notice to customers when their contract is about to come to an end, or where there will be changes to their contract terms and conditions. The notice must also inform customers of their right to end their contract without incurring any costs if they do not choose to renew the deal they're currently on.
The code also says contracts can be no longer than 24 months, however, member states can choose to enforce shorter contracts if they so choose.
Another boon for consumers is that providers will also be obligated to give consumers ‘best tariff advice’ at least once every year. This means providers will have to advise their customers if there is a better product or plan available which they can sign up to.
That being said, consumers should be aware that in most cases where you have chosen to ‘opt-out’ for marketing communications (as per GDPR guidelines), your provider won’t be able to send you best tariff advice at all.
Additionally, if a customer is allowed to end their contract with a provider before the end of the official contract period, then they shouldn't have to pay any compensation, other than for any equipment they might have kept.
Provider switching & number portability
When it comes to switching broadband services, both your new and existing providers must ensure continuity of access during the switching process. However, your new provider must ensure you’re up and running with your new service within the shortest possible time, while consumers can't be without service for more than one day under the new rules.
To reiterate, the EECC also sets out that communications services that provide mobile and home phone services will be regulated in the same way as ECS services, so mobile customers and landline customers will also receive the same protection under the law, which brings us to our next point!
Another advantage for mobile consumers under the law is that where service providers fail to meet their obligations, consumers may be entitled to claim compensation. Compensation due under the code includes for things such as delays in and abuses of the switching and porting process, as well as for missed service and installation appointments. And most importantly, when any compensation due has been paid, providers will be required to lift any restriction on mobile handsets.
Consumers will also have increased protection when porting their number. This is when you switch provider but want to keep your existing phone number. Where a consumer ends a contract, they will be able to port their number to another provider for a minimum of one month after the contract ends and will not be charged directly for the porting process.
ComReg must also ensure that pricing among providers related to porting a number is kept strictly cost-oriented.
As well as consumers being eligible for compensation from providers in certain circumstances, providers themselves will also be subject to penalties should they fail to comply with their obligations laid down in the EECC.
Where bundle offers are concerned, for example a broadband, TV, and home phone deal, all the above obligations on providers remain the same with regards to consumer protection.
And if your supplier fails to supply one element of the bundle before the end of the contract, you can terminate the contract for non-conformity.
Compare with bonkers.ie
If you're out of contract with your current provider and are looking to upgrade your broadband speed into the new year, you can use bonkers.ie today to compare the best deals across all providers in Ireland, and in only a couple of seconds!
On bonkers.ie you can quickly check what providers and speeds are available in your area with our broadband comparison service. Just type in your address or Eircode and we'll take it from there!
What's more, we recently upgraded our comparison tool to allow for cross-network comparisons, giving our customers far greater access to what broadband deals are available in their locality.
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