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Electronic Communications and Audio-Visual Services

What will happen with roaming tariffs when I call from the United Kingdom?

As from 1 January 2021, the United Kingdom (UK) will be considered to be a third country vis-à-vis European Union (EU) law and thenceforth trade relations will be defined according to the provisions of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement reached between the UK and the EU. However, some matters, as is the case of tariff agreements on telecommunications and audio-visual services, will be excluded from this trade agreement.

Until 31 December 2020, telephone users paid no surcharge when travelling to the UK from the EU and vice versa. However, as from 1 January 2021, EU law ceases to apply in the UK and hence, telephone operators are under no obligation to maintain roaming services free of surcharges (calls made and received, SMS messages sent and data services) when users travel from the UK to the EU and vice versa.

However, in the event that telephone operators modify the prices of roaming calls, they are under an obligation to communicate this one month beforehand to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation and to all customers affected.

Hence, in the event of a modification to roaming prices, customers will receive a communication at least one month in advance. At any event, for greater certainty, users may consult the operator through the channels they have available:

  • Operator's customer care service
  • Web page. In line with regulations, operators are obliged to publish all their prices

In the event that prices increase and this communication is not made, or not made in sufficient time beforehand, a claim may be made to the Telecommunications User Care Service.

Will phone calls to or from a landline or mobile phone from the UK be more expensive?

As from 1 January 2021, the United Kingdom (UK) will be considered to be a third country vis-à-vis European Union (EU) law and thenceforth trade relations will be defined according to the provisions of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement reached between the UK and the EU. However, some matters, as is the case of tariff agreements on telecommunications and audio-visual services, will be excluded from this trade agreement.

Until 31 December 2020, the EU's regulatory framework remained in force on the reduction in termination rates for wholesale voice calls (that is, prices per minute charged between operators) and also under the regulations that determine the maximum prices per minute for voice calls (19 Eurocents a minute, plus VAT) and for SMS messages (6 Eurocents, plus VAT) between final users.

However, as from 1 January 2021, EU law ceases to apply in the UK.

This means, on the one hand, that the framework on the reduction in wholesale call tariffs ceases to apply between the EU and the UK, and that the UK regulator may (or may not) henceforth regulate these tariffs.

As regards users, no maximum limit now applies on tariffs between final users established between the EU and the UK. Consequently, retail tariffs may be raised charged to users in calls from the EU to the UK, and vice versa.

However, as with roaming calls, in the event that operators modify their prices of international calls, they are under an obligation to communicate this one month beforehand to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation and to all customers affected.

Hence, in the event of a price modification, customers will receive a communication to this end a minimum of one month in advance. At any event, for greater certainty, users may consult the operator through the channels they have available:

  • Operator's customer care service
  • Web page. In line with regulations, operators are obliged to publish all their prices

In the event that prices increase and this communication is not made, or not made in sufficient time beforehand, a claim may be made to the Telecommunications User Care Service.

Will any television communication services or the ability to access audio-visual communication services on demand cease to be available?

As from 1 January 2021, the UK will be considered to be a third country vis-à-vis EU law and thenceforth trade relations will be defined according to the provisions of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement reached between the UK and the EU. However, some matters, as is the case of tariff agreements on telecommunications and audio-visual services, will be excluded from this trade agreement.

Hence, as from 1 January 2021, the Audio-visual Media Services Directive will cease to apply, which guaranteed the freedom to receive audio-visual media services between the UK and the rest of the EU countries. Accordingly, EU Member States may restrict the reception and broadcasting of audio-visual media services from the UK.

However, the countries that have signed and ratified the European Convention on Transfrontier Television must guarantee the freedom to receive cross-border linear audio-visual services (by cable or satellite) between them. Spain and the UK have ratified the Convention, and hence, linear services may be provided between the two parties.

Lastly, it should be clarified that, in line with the provisions of the European Convention on Transfrontier Television, audio-visual services on demand (video on demand and programme listings) do not fall within its scope of application.

Will I be able to continue making purchases on electronic commerce web pages established in the UK?

As from 1 February 2020, the UK became a third country for the purposes of EU law. However, from that time and until 31 December 2020, the so-called Transition Period has been in force, during which time the status quo has been maintained and hence EU law has remained applicable on a transitory basis.

This means that until 31 December 2020, EU law on the provision of information society services will continue to apply, particularly Directive 2000/31/EC (Directive on information society services and electronic commerce).

Once the Transition Period ends on 31 December 2020, EU law will definitively cease to apply in the UK. Specifically, Directive 2000/31/EC will cease to apply in the UK on 1 January 2021, when the UK leaves the Customs Union and the Single Market. The agreement reached means the elimination of unjustified barriers to electronic commerce and data flows, while respecting the rules on data protection.

This will greatly affect British service providers, which may not benefit from the country of origin principle and may be subject to sector legislation of the Member States where their services are provided, including the possibility of needing prior authorisation. For their part, online intermediation service providers established in the UK will lose the exemption from liability for the content they host.

Non official translation


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