Are telephone companies required to provide personal subscriber data to telephone book operators in other EU countries? That is the question the Trade and Industry Appeals Tribunal ('College van Beroep voor het bedrijfsleven') submitted to the EU Court of Justice in its ruling of July 3rd.

Every EU citizen who subscribes to a telephone service is asked whether his or her data, including name, address and telephone number(s), may be shared with telephone book operators. If the subscriber agrees to this, the telephone company is required to provide this data at the telephone book operators' request. The question is whether this obligation also applies to cross-border requests within the EU.

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers & Markets (ACM) decided that Vodafone and other telephone companies were obliged to provide this information to a Belgian operator of online telephone directory services. In its advice to ACM, the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) has held that sharing such information has the objective to promote competition and the EU internal market. Vodafone appealed ACM's decision pointing out the personal nature of such data and the limitations for damage repair once the information is unlawfully processed in another country. Vodafone has also championed the freedom of choice for subscribers to decide in which countries their personal data may be distributed. A ruling on the matter by the EU Court of Justice is expected in 2017.