The Court of Justice of the European Union, CJEU, published important judgements regarding network neutrality. It responded to two German courts who are deciding disputes between operators and regulators over limitations of zero-rated offers. The CJEU considers zero-rated offers non-compliant with the EU law.
Two German courts, the Administrative Court Cologne and the Higher Regional Court Düsseldorf, are deciding on disputes between, on the one hand, Vodafone or Telekom Deutschland, and, on the other, telecoms regulator BNetzA or a German consumer protection organisation. The disputes relate to limitations of zero-rated offers, specifically on bandwidth, tethering and roaming. The German courts addressed the CJEU with a question concerning compatibility with EU law of such limitations.
A zero-rated offer is a commercial practice whereby an internet access provider applies a more advantageous tariff to all or part of the data traffic associated with partner application(s). The provider thus does not count the consumed data to the spending of the basic data package.
Vodafone’s zero-rated tariff Vodafone Pass offers zero-rated access to four categories of services: video, music, chat and social networks. However, when the customer uses roaming abroad or a hotspot, the data consumed diminish the basic data package.
Similarly, Telekom Deutschland’s zero-rated add-on offer Stream On does not count data consumption from the audio/video streaming from Telekom’s content partners. When the customer spends his basic data package, the transmission speed generally decreases. However, with the zero-rated add-on, the consumer accepts that the speed is limited to 1.7 Mbps for any video streaming.
The CJEU in its judgements explains that zero-rated offers apply business considerations for distinguishing within the internet traffic. Such business practice is contrary to the EU’s open internet access regulation 2015/2120, which requires equal treatment of traffic.
As the CJEU considers the zero-rated offers non-compliant with the EU law, the court comes to the same conclusion about their features, in this case the disputed limitations.
Open Nettest and network neutrality
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