Stepping up legal action: Commission urges 19 Member States to implement EU digital and media laws

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This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


Today, the Commission takes legal action against 19 Member States failing to deliver the benefits of EU digital legislation in the area of audio-visual media and telecommunications. These Member States are required to transpose into their national laws two new sets of rules, without further delay: the Audio-Visual Media Services Directive and the European Electronic Communications Code, and inform the Commission about this transposition. Both Directives are crucial for the EU’s digital transition, after having been commonly agreed by Member States, and had to be transposed by end-2020.

Audio-Visual Media Services Directive

The Audio-Visual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) aims to ensure a fair single market for broadcast services that keeps up with technological developments. To this end, the Directive was revised in 2018 to create a regulatory framework fit for the digital age, leading to a safer, fairer and more diverse audio-visual landscape. It coordinates EU-wide legislation on all audio-visual media, including both traditional TV broadcasters and on-demand video services, and lays down essential protection measures with regard to content shared on video-sharing platforms.

Due to the delayed transposition, citizens and businesses in Czechia, Estonia, Ireland, Spain, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Slovenia and Slovakia may not be able to rely on all the provisions of the AVMSD, which:

  • Create a level playing field for different types of audio-visual media services;
  • Guarantee the independence of national media regulators;
  • Preserve cultural diversity by, for example, requiring video on demand services to have at least 30% of European works on offer;
  • Protect children and consumers by laying down rules for the protection of minors against harmful content in the online world, including protections on video-on-demand services; and
  • Combat racial, religious and other types of hatred by having reinforced rules to combat the incitement to violence or hatred, and the public provocation to commit terrorist offences.

European Electronic Communications Code

EU action in the area of electronic communications has led to greater consumer choice, lower phone bills, and higher standards of telecommunications service. The European Electronic Communications Code modernises EU telecoms rules, making them fit for the digital era. Due to the delayed transposition, consumers and businesses in Estonia, Spain, Croatia, Ireland, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia and Sweden may not benefit from rules, which provide for:

  • Clear and inclusive end-user rights rules: the same rules apply all over Europe towards an inclusive single market;
  • Higher quality of services: consumers can enjoy higher connection speeds and higher coverage; since the Code fosters competition for investments, in particular in very high capacity networks, including 5G networks;
  • Harmonisation of rules: the Code enhances regulatory predictability, including in radio spectrum assignment;
  • Consumer protection: the Code benefits and protects consumers, irrespective of whether end-users communicate through traditional (calls, text message) or app-based services;
  • Fair play: the Code ensures equality of treatment of all players in the telecom services sector, whether traditional or app-based.

In particular, consumers should benefit from enhanced protection through rules that ensure clarity of contractual information, quality of service and facilitating provider switching between networks to drive fairer retail prices. Operators and providers can take advantage of pro-investment rules, such as those incentivising co-investments in very-high capacity networks and wholesale-only networks or regulatory and investment predictability including in radio-spectrum assignment procedures.

Background

Enshrined in the EU treaties, the infringement procedure provides that the Commission may take legal action against Member States who fail to ensure the timely and accurate transposition of directives into their national legislation.

The deadline for transposing the Audio-Visual Media Services Directive was 19 September 2020. In November 2020, the Commission launched infringement proceedings against 23 Member States for failure to notify complete transposition of the revised Audio-Visual Media Services Directive. So far, 15 Member States have notified transposition measures declaring their notification complete and 3 additional Member States have communicated partial notification. The Commission is now following up by sending reasoned opinions to Czechia, Estonia, Ireland, Spain, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Slovenia, and Slovakia (9 Member States).

The deadline for transposing the European Electronic Communications Code into national legislation was 21 December 2020. The Commission sent letters of formal notice to 24 Member States on 4 February 2021. Only Bulgaria and Denmark notified the full transposition by the end of August (joining Greece, Hungary, and Finland who had already transposed before). Recently Belgium and Germany also notified complete transposition and their notification is under assessment. During the summer, Czechia, and recently also France, notified a great number of measures in view of partially transposing the Directive, which are also assessed. The Commission is now following up by sending reasoned opinions to Estonia, Spain, Croatia, Ireland, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia and Sweden (18 Member States), requesting them to adopt and notify the relevant measures.

The Member States concerned have two months to remedy the situation and adopt national transposing measures for these pieces of EU legislation. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer their cases to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

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