New bill could lead to lower data prices for mobile users

Photo: CC0 / Pixabay

The Czech Republic’s law on electronic communications looks set for an overhaul that should benefit ordinary mobile phone users and boost the powers of regulator the Czech Telecommunications Office (CTO). Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka says he aims to rush through an amendment to that end drafted by the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Photo: CC0 / Pixabay
The bill, which Industry Minister Jan Mládek will submit next week, should close the gap between the cheap corporate and unpublished tariffs (used by a large section of the population) and the high rates found on mobile operators’ price lists, reported.

A particular issue in the Czech Republic is the cost of mobile data, which is far above that than in a number of other European states that have a higher standard of living.

The new legislation does not envisage direct regulation of prices, reported. Rather it will comprise a series of indirect steps intended to boost competition and thereby force prices down.

One way this should be done is by increasing the amount that the CTO can fine mobile operators for infringements. The current maximum fine of CZK 20 million will shoot up to CZK 50 million.

The agency will be able to impose the new higher fine repeatedly, Prime Minister Sobotka told journalists on Tuesday after a meeting with Minister Mládek and CTO representatives.

Jan Mládek, photo: Marián Vojtek / ČRo
Mr. Sobotka said it will also become possible to use sanctions for non-compliance with frequency assignment. This measure would give the regulator leverage over mobile providers that pledged to allow virtual network operators but have since blocked such moves.

What’s more, reported, the amendment will also boost consumers’ rights. For instance, the time period allowed for switching to a new operator will be reduced to a maximum of 10 days.

Customers will also be able to terminate a contract with an operator if the latter has unilaterally changed the conditions, such as concerning data use. All of this will make it easier for people to move from one company to another.

The CTO should produce an analysis of the data market by May, which it will then submit to the anti-trust authority.

That report, iDnes said, should help explain why the country’s operators cling so tightly to corporate customers but at the same time all keep the price of their flagship standard tariff at CZK 749 a month for only 1.5 gigabytes of data.

The move would represent a significant shift for the government, which has hitherto been seen as overly chummy with the mobile operators.

This may stem from the fact it is an election year in the Czech Republic. ANO chief Andrej Babiš has come out against the high data prices, while Mr. Sobotka, chairman of the Social Democrats, has also begun showing an interest in the issue.