Following withdrawal of interest from BT Communications Ireland Ltd (“BT”) ComReg is now consulting on whether the current direction to eircom to maintain the NDD should be extended from 30 June 2015 to end June 2018.

By way of overview, the NDD is a comprehensive record (database) of all subscribers of publicly available telephone services (“PATS”) in Ireland who have not refused to have their details included in it.  The NDD fulfils two main functions:

  • It facilitates the compilation of and access to information for telephone directories and directory enquiry services; and  
  • It records consumers’ preferences to ‘opt-out’ of receiving unsolicited calls for direct marketing purposes.  Entities wishing to send direct marketing to consumers are required under the Privacy Regulations 2011 to first check the NDD; they must not contact anyone who is on the ‘opt-out’ list.  Failure to check and adhere to the opt-out list is an offence.  ComReg and the Data Protection Commissioner have shown themselves to be especially vigilant in taking enforcement measures against entities who are in breach of the rules.

Regulation 19(4) of the Universal Service Regulations 2011 gives ComReg statutory power to require a particular undertaking to manage and maintain the NDD; and currently eircom is the entity directed by ComReg to discharge this function until end June 2015. 

Under a previous ComReg decision, eircom had been designated to manage and maintain the NDD until end June 2014; and in May last yearComReg issued a consultation concerning the maintenance and management of the NDD following expiry of eircom’s designation ie, from July 2014. In particular, ComReg examined whether it was necessary to (re-)designate any undertaking at all to manage and maintain the NDD and if so, the appropriate designation period. Typically an undertaking has been designated for a period of two years.  However, in ComReg’s May 2014 consultation, ComReg indicated that it was considering a designation period of four years (ie, until end June 2018).  

During the consultation process, BT expressed interest in taking over maintenance and management of the NDD from eircom.  However, having reviewed BT’s submission, ComReg expressed the view that BT’s original submission lacked the necessary detail for ComReg to properly evaluate BT’s case.  Given the imminent expiry of eircom’s designation, ComReg therefore decided to extend eircom’s then current two year designation to end June 2014 for a further year (ie, until end June 2015).  This was intended to provide sufficient time for BT to revise its original submission and submit a fuller / more detailed business case, and at the same time, avoid a position where no-one was responsible for maintaining and managing the NDD. 

In the meantime, the factual landscape has changed somewhat with BT withdrawing its interest, and eircom completing its NDD IT infrastructure and upgrade project.  Consequently, ComReg is now consulting on extending eircom’s NDD designation until end June 2018 (ie, for a further three years out of the proposed four year period in ComReg’s May 2014 consultation). The consultation period ran until 20 March 2015, and given what seems to be pretty much a one-horse race, we can likely expect confirmation of eircom’s (re-)designation some time in advance of June 2015 (when its current designation is due to expire).