Pan-European Regulator May Face Problems, says Eversheds

The proposal by EU telecoms commissioner, Viviane Reding, for a pan-European telecoms regulator may cause major issues for Member States and operators, according to experts at international law firm Eversheds. National regulators were given until 16 February to produce ‘satisfactory’ proposals on how they could co-ordinate their powers into a single EU-wide regulatory body. Eversheds is arguing that while increased consistency across the telecoms sector should be welcomed, a single European regulatory body is not necessarily the best solution.

The proposals by the EC are in response to concerns that some national regulators are ineffective and have failed to adequately address competition concerns in their respective countries. The Commission has recently announced that it is still undecided whether to propose a single European telecoms regulator, following uncertainty that a pan-European system will work in practice.

Elizabeth Wilks-Wood, telecoms expert at Eversheds, comments: “Questions about a pan-European regulator have been raised in the past, and by announcing that it is still undecided on the issue, it seems that European Commission is having similar reservations. These questions are unlikely to be resolved, despite the deadline of 16 February for Member State proposals on the matter.

“There are many issues which will need to be addressed before this proposal is deemed viable. On the surface, a pan-European regulator could benefit operators as it would ensure consistency. However, if the EC is only concerned with the practices of one or two Member States, it is difficult to see how such blanket reform could be proportionate.”

Wilks-Wood continues: “What also remains uncertain is how a single European regulator would operate alongside national regulators. The new European regulatory regime was designed to ease the regulatory burden for operators, so it is difficult to see how having an additional layer of regulation would fulfil this objective. Added to this is the potential increased cost of compliance. Ofcom has published over 1000 documents over the past year, detailing various proposals and requirements for electronic communications services, markets and technologies. It is difficult to see how a pan-European regulator could make the process more streamlined, as it would have to take into account the different market conditions in each of the 25 Member States.

“Any initiative to increase competitiveness and consistency across the industry should be welcomed, however, this proposal requires significantly more thought before it can be concluded it is the best solution for the industry.”

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