In 2015, a German court classified Google’s Gmail as a regulated telecoms service. This court decision added to the discussion of whether and to what extent communications services that are provided ‘over the top’ (OTT) will be regulated under European telecoms laws. The Gmail decision also provided momentum for the call by telecoms operators for a regulatory level playing field for traditional telecoms services (voice telephony over fixed or mobile networks, or SMS) and OTT.
Google’s appeal against the Gmail decision is still pending so, under current German law, this particular question will not be resolved for some time. In a similar case, BIPT, the national regulatory authority (NRA) of Belgium fined Skype last summer more than e220,000 for failure to notify it was a provider of an allegedly regulated telecoms service, SkypeOut. And most recently, a Belgian court issued a further fine against Skype for failure to comply with statutory obligations addressed to providers of regulated telecoms services. It can be expected that Skype will appeal this decision.
There are few issues more fraught than how to deal with over the top services. ANDREAS GRÜNWALD and CHRISTOPH NÜSSING examine Europe’s draft code.
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