Stricter Regulations Likely as ECJ Rules on Universal Service Directive

Posted on 12th September 2019

Immergency Alarm

Service providers and equipment manufacturers may face more stringent regulations following a recent European Court of Justice (ECJ) preliminary ruling on Article 26(5) of the Universal Service Directive. The preliminary ruling follows an action brought against the Lithuanian State by the family of a young girl whose murder it is argued could have been prevented had the government not failed to properly implement the Universal Service Directive.

The Directive requires Member States to ensure providers of electronic communication services provide free access to emergency services to any user able to call numbers in a national telephone numbering plan. Member States must ensure providers transmit the caller’s location to the emergency services as soon as the call reaches the authorities. It is unclear if the girl’s phone was fitted with a SIM card and the Court was asked to clarify whether the obligations found in the Directive extended to such a device. The Court’s answer was an unambiguous yes. The Court found it apparent from the text that all calls to the single European emergency call number are covered by the obligation to make caller location information available. The Court reiterates the decision in Commission v Lithuania which states that the obligation imposed on Member States is not limited to putting an appropriate regulatory framework in place, but requires that information on the location of all callers to ‘112’ be transmitted to the emergency services.

The judgment confirms that Member States have some discretion on how to implement the Directive, but makes it clear that whatever criteria national regulators put in place for the reliability and accuracy of caller location must enable emergency services to come to the caller’s aid. Member States may even be found liable for damages which result, directly or indirectly depending on the national framework, from their failure to meet these obligations. Member States depend on service providers and manufacturers of equipment to deliver reliable caller ID locations, even for mobile phones not fitted with SIM cards. Regulators throughout the Union will therefore want to re-examine the requirements they place on providers regarding caller ID localisation. Following this ECJ decision, regulations which fall short of guaranteeing this outcome are likely to be revised.

Author: Fabian Vevstad, Policy Analyst, Access Partnership

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