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New Telecoms Rules Approved by Minister Rabbitte

Competition, consumer rights and privacy the primary focus of 12 significant reforms

Same day number portability entitlement amongst the changes

Minister for Communications, Pat Rabbitte T.D, today approved an extensive package of telecommunications Regulations which turn EU rules into Irish law.

Announcing the decisions the Minister said "This is a significant update to the Irish and European rules through which we manage our telecoms market. They will strengthen competition. consumer and privacy rights and should boost the level of trust in using electronic communications."

"For example, under one of the new rules a consumer who wishes to change their mobile phone provider will be able to transfer his or her number within one working day. While Ireland fares very well compared to many of our EU counterparts when it comes to the speed at which a consumer can transfer his or her number from one provider to another, the certainty offered under the revised framework copper-fastens the consumer’s protection against unnecessary disruption to their telephone service when changing service providers" said the Minister.

Twelve important reforms have been identified as being at the centre of the revised regulatory framework. As well as being able to change provider within one working day, the Regulations ensure that consumers are fully informed of their rights through minimum requirements for information to be included in a contract. The Regulations lay the ground work for better access to emergency services, particularly for disabled end-users, specification of minimum quality of service standards by the Regulator etc. A summary of the 12 reforms is appended below.

The new regulations, which come into effect today, also provide for mandatory notifications in respect of personal data breaches and will ensure that users are better informed in terms of the storage of their personal information on websites through the use of "cookies" and other technologies. "It is essential that the personal information of users is protected against accidental or deliberate disclosure and I believe the enhanced data protection provisions in the new Regulations will act as an incentive to better protection of personal data by holders of such data. Furthermore, it is important that users are informed when their information is stored on a website and the purposes for which the information is being stored" said the Minister. "I believe that the provisions set out in the new Privacy Regulations, which will be primarily enforced by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, will achieve an appropriate balance between the protection of consumer interests and the interests of industry for effective and innovative services. I know the Commissioner welcomes the introduction of these rules.

The Minister noted that, by coincidence, today also marks the completion of a separate EU Regulation to reduce the costs of making and receiving calls when abroad in the EU roaming costs.