Turkey's grip on its IT/C sector tightens as the authorities continue to issue new regulations. As recently as this February, the Turkish parliament adopted an omnibus bill amending several laws, including Law No. 5651, On Regulation of Internet Publication and Combatting Crimes Committed through Internet Publication, commonly known as the Internet Law. These amendments generated controversy as it elevated government control and supervision of the Internet to an even higher level. To access a detailed overview of the previous version of the amendments, please click here. This trend of greater level of regulatory scrutiny continues with the introduction of the new Regulation on Administrative Sanctions by the Turkish IT/C Authority on February 15, 2014, repealing an earlier regulation.
Even under the previous regulation, electronic communications providers were subject to severe fines, with market players in recent years experiencing a gradual increase in the level of fines imposed. On December 10, 2013, for example, the IT/C Authority imposed fines amounting to TRY 34.5 million (approximately USD 16 million) on Turk Telekom, the incumbent operator, and all three Turkish mobile operators for violation of various regulatory obligations. The new regulation means that the electronic communications companies will continue to face ever growing scrutiny from the IT/C Authority.
Consistent with this trend, the new regulation significantly increases sanctions for violations of electronic communications regulations. The fines for certain violations, such as providing misleading information or documents, using frequencies other than those allocated, failing to inform customers of tariff changes, and failing to obtain “all risk” insurance are doubled; fines for failing to enable emergency calls are tripled. While not explicitly stated, the sanction for not paying Treasury contribution fees is increased from the already severe fine of 1% of the previous year's revenues to license revocation.
The new regulation also introduces sanctions for matters not previously subject to fine, including violations of rules on numbering, number porting, access and interconnection, protection of personal information, and safety of electronic communications. It further increases the number of possible violations for matters already regulated, such as licensing, frequency use, end-user tariffs, and consumer rights. For consumer rights in particular, the regulation emphasizes consumer protection, introducing new violations to increase transparency in the market, provide more remedies forconsumer complaints, and better inform consumers of changes.
While most of the Turkish IT/C regulatory framework had been revamped in 2009 when almost all of the regulations were amended in line with the corresponding EU regulatory framework for electronic communications, the regulation on administrative sanctions was not revised at that time. As a consequence, the regulation did not reflect the 2009 changes or the new framework on which the regulations were based. Not only did it continue to use outdated terms such as “telecommunications permits” and “general authorization,” it also referred to the competent official body as the “Telecommunications Board” instead of current “Information Technologies and Communications Board.” The new regulation now harmonizes the terminology.
The new regulation not only increases fines' severity but also harmonizes the terminology with that of the new regulatory framework which is based on the corresponding EU framework. It tightens the Board's grip on the market both through the increased fines and new types of violations, including some not explicitly covered by the previous regulation.
Actions to consider
Electronic communications providers should be aware of how this new regulation may affect their operations in Turkey, and take steps to ensure compliance.