On 18 August 2017, an amendment to the Electronic Communications Act was published in the Collection of Laws. The amendment entails a number of significant changes, including, in particular, tightening up conditions for the providers of publicly available electronic communications services and a transition to DVB-T2 broadcasting. The amendment will come into effect on 2 September 2017.
Act No. 127/2005 Coll. on Electronic Communications (the “AEC”) has been amended to (i) strengthen the rights of the customers of the providers of publicly available electronic communications services and (ii) to ensure and implement the transition to a new standard of digital television broadcasting DVB-T2.
Changes in the terms of contracts for the provision of publicly available electronic communications services
The amendment strengthens consumer protection in relation to the providers of publicly available electronic communications services. In this context, the conditions for operators, Internet service providers and other publicly available electronic communications services will be made more stringent.
Under the amendment, the mandatory terms of the contract for the provision of a publicly available electronic communications service and the connection to the public communications network will include an agreement on the scope of possible unilateral changes to the contract, as well as on the manner of their notification to the subscriber, including notification of possibility of withdrawing from the contract.
Up to now, in case of a change in business terms, customers could still withdraw from the contract only if this was a substantial change impairing their position. However, under the amendment, the customer will be able to withdraw from the contract, without being penalised, in the case of any change in the statutory terms of the contract (Section 63(1)(c) to (p) and (r) of the AEC), even if such a change does not impair the position of the customer.
Therefore, we recommend that the providers revise their business terms and other parts of contracts for the provision of publicly available electronic communications services as soon as possible. It is not just compliance with the law, but also the appropriate setting of the entire related documentation according to the provider’s business needs.
The amendment will also affect the extension of fixed-term contracts. The providers will now need to obtain a demonstrable consent from the customer to extend the fixed-term contract; otherwise, the contract cannot be automatically extended by the same period.
In order to unify the notice period for electronic communications contracts, the maximum length of the notice period will now be set not to exceed 30 days.
The changed notice period will also affect the telephone number portability concept. The notice period cannot be longer than 10 days when the phone number is transferred.
Transition to DVB-T2
The second important issue covered by the amendment is the transition of television broadcasting to the DVB-T2 standard as a part of implementing the strategy for the development of terrestrial digital television broadcasting, approved by the Czech government last year. As part of extensive changes in radio spectrum use and in line with the decision of the European Parliament and of the Council, radio frequencies for the 700 MHz band which has so far served for digital television broadcasting will be released and left to mobile operators to create new mobile networks. The transition to the DVB-T2 standard will continue to ensure the availability of free-of-charge television programs. As a result of this transition, households will in any case need to buy new TV sets or set-top boxes or modify antenna systems to receive a DVB-T2 TV signal no later than 1 February 2021 when broadcasting in the existing DVB-T standard will end.
The amendment will come into effect on the fifteenth day following its publication in the Collection of Laws, except for the provisions concerning the telephone number portability which will come into effect on the first day of the sixth calendar month following the publication date.
The providers will then have six months to bring the contracts into line with the new legislation.
For more information on the new legislation and on electronic communications matters, please contact us at any time. Our legal team is fully available to you.