Introduction

The Communications Regulation (Premium Rate Services and Electronic Communications Infrastructure) Act 2010 was signed into law on 16 March 2010. The legislation deals primarily with premium rates services, but has some ancillary provisions dealing with electronic communications infrastructure.

Premium Rate Services

The main features of the legislation are as follows:

  • responsibility for regulating “premium rate services” will transfer from the current regulator, the Regulator Premium Rate Telecommunications Services (REGTEL) to the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg);
  • for the first time a licence will be required to provide “specified premium rate services”;
  • applications for such licenses must be made to ComReg who may make regulations specifying the class or type of “premium rate services” which require to be licensed and the conditions to be attached to any licenses;
  • ComReg will have the power to apply to the High Court for immediate suspension of licenses, conduct investigations to ensure compliance and to revoke, amend or suspend licenses;
  • persons operating without a licence will be liable to fines of up to €250,000;
  • provisions prohibiting overcharging or charging for services not supplied;
  • provision for ComReg to draw up codes of practice required to be followed by “premium rate service providers” as a condition of their licence;
  • a “premium rate service” is defined as a service having all or any of the following characteristics:

it consists in the provision of the contents of communications (other than a broadcasting service) through an electronic communications network or by using an electronic communications service, which may include or allow the use of a facility made available to the users of the service;

there is a charge for the provision of the service which exceeds the cost attributable to communications carriage alone, and

such charge is paid by the end user of the service directly or indirectly to the provider of the electronic communications network or electronic communications service used in connection with the provision of the service, by means of a billing or other agreed payment mechanism.

  • a “premium rate service provider” is defined as a person who does any or all of the following, for gain:

provides the contents of a premium rate service;

exercises editorial control over the contents of a premium rate service;

packages together the contents of a premium rate service for the purposes of facilitating its provision;

makes available a facility as part of a premium rate service;

transfers a premium rate service from a content provider to one or more electronic communications networks, or

provides the electronic communications service over which a premium rate service is provided, or provides the electronic communications network over which a premium rate service is transmitted.

Electronic Communications Infrastructure

  • The legislation also has a number of provisions dealing with electronic communications infrastructure.
  • The legislation amends a number of provisions in the main legislation, the Communications Regulation Act 2002, namely those:-
  • dealing with the opening of public roads for the establishment of underground electronic communications infrastructure;
  • dealing with cost apportionment for electronic communications infrastructure relocation due to road improvements;
  • which provide for the making of regulations to establish the basis for the calculation by a network operator of costs reasonably attributable to the costs incurred by the network operator as a result of road works, and for the making of policy direction to authorities.

The legislation also empowers ComReg in the case of the termination of an electronic communications service affecting a substantial number of users to issue emergency directions to certain undertakings.

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