On 2 September, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled in two German cases concerning "zero tariff" offers by Internet Service Providers (ISPs). The Court ruled that this practice is contrary to the EU regulation on open Internet access, for the second time in a year.
A "zero tariff" is the practice of an ISP to make free the volume of data consumed via a partner application.
In this case the CJEU points to the additional option, Stream On, offered by Telekom Deutschland to its users. Vodafone, on the other hand, offers a myriad of options under the name Vodafone Pass, which are only valid in Germany. The data consumed by the applications concerned are only taken into account when they are consumed from abroad.
Maryant Fernández Pérez, head of digital policy at the European consumer protection organisation BEUC said "When companies like Vodafone use these zero tariffs, they are essentially locking consumers in and limiting what the internet can offer them,. "Zero tariffs" are detrimental to consumer choice, competition, innovation, media diversity and freedom of information".
It also welcomed the Court's ruling that "such a commercial practice is contrary to the general obligation of equal treatment of traffic, without discrimination or interference, as required by the Open Internet Access Regulation".
The German Federal Network Agency, which filed the complaint together with a consumer association, believes that the offers "cannot be maintained in their current form". Vodafone Germany said it is "carefully examining the decisions and will update its current offer if necessary in accordance with the judgments".
The ruling is based on the EU net neutrality regulation, which was passed in 2015 and came into force in 2016. The text was criticised at the time for its weakness. The US Federal Communication Commission had taken a much stronger measure on the same subject the year of the European vote, clearly prohibiting "zero rating".
Since then, the situation has ironically been reversed. The Trump administration repealed the net neutrality measure, which his successor is trying to reinstate. In Europe, the CJEU clarified its position in September 2020 via its ruling on the offers of the operator Telenor. A decision confirmed today.
Source : Siècle Digital