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European court rules on communications status of Skype and Gmail

European court rules on communications status of Skype and Gmail

The European Court of Justice (EJC) has ruled that Skype and similar voice over internet (VoIP) communications providers are subject to rules governing electronic communications services in some cases, following a dispute between the company and the Belgian telecoms regulator, notes Mobile World Live. “In 2011, the Belgian Institute for Postal services and Telecommunications (BIPT) requested Skype provide notification of its services in accordance with telecoms regulations. A particular factor in the case is that Skype enables customers to make calls to landlines using its SkypeOut feature. Skype, in response, said that it did not provide electronic communications services as defined by the regulation, since it did not transmit signals itself. It also said that for SkypeOut, it works with international operators which send signals on its behalf.” This initiated a long period of back-and-forth, leading Belgium’s Court of Appeal to the door of the Court of Justice. Submissions were also made by the German, Dutch and Romanian governments, and the European Commission. The ruling, issued on 5 June, declared VoIP services which enable users to terminate calls on fixed or mobile networks are an electronic communications service if the software publisher is remunerated for the provision of services – Skype sells bundles of minutes and subscriptions covering these calls – and the provision of that service involves agreements with telecoms service providers which are authorised to send and terminate the calls. Other Skype features, such as its core VoIP proposition and instant messaging, are not affected by the ruling. The decision will also affect rivals which offer SkypeOut-type services. And in another ruling, the EJC has declared that Google’s Gmail is not a telecoms service, in response to a case brought by Germany’s regulator, notes Telecompaper. “The court found that Gmail does involve the conveyance of signals, a key criteria for defining a telecoms service, known as electronic communications services, in EU law. Google must upload emails to the open internet and send the messages to terminals identified with IP addresses. However, this is not enough to consider Gmail a telecoms service, as it does not provide the internet access itself, nor does Gmail consist ‘wholly or mainly in the conveyance of signals on electronic communications networks’, as described in the EU directive, the court said.” See more and here.

  • Monday, 17 June 2019

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