The Court of Justice of the EU, for the first time, the EU regulation enshrining ‘internet neutrality’

15 settembre 2020

Accordign to the Court ( C-807/18 and C-39/19),  the conclusion of agreements, by which given customers subscribe to a package combining a ‘zero tariff’ and measures blocking or slowing down the traffic linked to the use of ‘non-zero tariff’ services and applications, is liable to limit the exercise of end users’ rights, within the meaning of Article 3(2) of Regulation 2015/2120, on a significant part of the market.

Such packages are liable to increase the use of the favoured applications and services and, accordingly, to reduce the use of the other applications and services available, having regard to the measures by which the provider of the internet access services makes that use technically more difficult, if not impossible. Furthermore, the greater the number of customers concluding such agreements, the more likely it is that, given its scale, the cumulative effect of those agreements will result in a significant limitation of the exercise of end users’ rights, or even undermine the very essence of those rights.

The Court found that, in order to make a finding of incompatibility with that provision, no assessment of the effect of measures blocking or slowing down traffic on the exercise of end users’ rights is required. Article 3(3) does not lay down such a requirement in order to assess whether the general obligation of equal and non-discriminatory treatment of traffic in that provision has been complied with. In addition, the Court held that, where measures blocking or slowing down traffic are based not on objectively different technical quality of service requirements for specific categories of traffic, but on commercial considerations, those measures must in themselves be regarded as incompatible with Article 3(3).

Consequently, packages such as those the subject of review by the referring court are, generally, liable to infringe both paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 3 of Regulation 2015/2120, it being specified that the competent national authorities and courts may examine those packages at the outset in the light of Article 3(3).

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