EU

EU Parliament votes to adopt Radio Spectrum Policy Programme

The EU Parliament has voted in favour of a Commission proposal for a decision to establish the first Radio Spectrum Policy Programme (RSPP). The RSPP provides a framework for spectrum allocation within the EU and aims to increase access to radio spectrum throughout Europe.

The policy objectives of the RSPP includes ensuring Member States are able to offer faster broadband to all regions, including remote areas. Additionally, the RSPP proposed that Member States should be able to offer internet connections at a speed of at least 30 Mbps by 2020 and they should free up the 800MHz frequency band so that it is available for harmonised use of wireless broadband services by 1 January 2013. However, the EU Parliament has adopted an amendment in the RSPP that would allow Member States to seek a postponement of this obligation until the end of 2015 (or beyond if they have problems in cross-border frequency co-ordination with neighbouring non-EU countries).

The EU Parliament also wants the spectrum allocated for mobile traffic data to increase to a minimum of 1200MHz by 2015 and for the 1.5GHz and 2.3GHz spectrum bands to be opened up for mobile broadband. 11 May 2011

UK

New electronic communications regulations come into force

The Electronic Communications and Wireless Telegraphy Regulations 2011 (the Regulations), which implement the amendments that are contained in the Framework Directive, Access Directive, Authorisation Directive and Universal Services Directive (the Revised EU Electronic Communications Framework) have been published.

The Regulations include amendments to the Communications Act 2003 and the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006. In relation to the former, notable amendments include changes to Ofcom’s duties and its power to impose penalties; a new market review procedure; and the addition of a new remedy - functional separation. In relation to the latter, certain amendments are made in order to implement new provisions relating to technology and service neutrality and liberalisation of spectrum usage rights.

The regulations also provide for a review of the implementation the Revised EU Electronic Communications Framework (which took effect on 26 May 2011) by the Secretary of State within five years. 4 May 2011

Information Commissioner publishes guidance on new EU cookies law

The new law which applies to how cookies and similar technologies for storing information are used on equipment such as computer or mobile devices came into force on 26 May 2011 (2009/136/EC) and amends the EU Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive. The UK Information Commissioner’s Office has published a guidance document setting out the changes brought into effect and explaining what steps are needed to ensure compliance. Of particular note is that businesses and organisations that have their own websites must now gain the visitors' consent prior to storing cookies on the appliance the visitor is using to access the site. The only exception to this new rule is where storing the cookie is “strictly necessary” for a service requested by the user. This is in direct contrast to the previous rules on cookies where the user had to “opt out”. Whilst there will be a phased approach to the implementation of these new rules, the Information Commissioner’s Office will have the power to impose monetary penalties for serious breaches. 9 May 2011

Government publishes draft bill on GSCOP Adjudicator

The role of the GSCOP Adjudicator in monitoring and enforcing the Groceries Supply Code of Practice (GSCOP) has been set out in a draft Bill.

GSCOP was introduced after a CC market investigation into the supply of groceries in the UK. In that investigation the CC concluded, in 2008, that certain groups of retailers were able to exercise purchasing power and as a result, unnecessary risks and additional costs were being passed on to the supplier, thereby affecting competition. Following a number of consultations, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills decided that the body to monitor and enforce the GSCOP should be known as the GSCOP Adjudicator (which should be established within the OFT, but would have decisional autonomy).

Under the draft Bill the GSCOP Adjudicator’s role will include: resolving disputes between large retailers and their direct suppliers; investigating possible breaches of the GSCOP; publishing guidance on investigations and its enforcement powers; giving advice to retailers and suppliers; reporting annually on its work; and recommending any changes to GSCOP that may be necessary.

The draft Bill is currently awaiting pre-legislative scrutiny by Parliament. 24 May 2011