Cable Europe Position Paper on the summary contract template

Cable Europe Position Paper on the summary contract template
23/05/2019 Muriel Hirschfeld

Download PDF file: Cable Europe Position Paper on the summary contract template 

The European Commission is tasked, under the European Electronic Communications Code, with the adoption, by the end of 2019, of an implementing act specifying a contract summary template. The template will contain the main elements of the information requirements for consumer contracts.

As customer facing businesses, it’s in our members’ interest to deliver an outstanding customer experience. Therefore, Cable Europe agrees that it is important for consumers to be well informed before deciding to enter into a contract. In addition to empowering consumers to make the right decisions, our members consider that the summary template should also allow providers to differentiate from competitors when they present key information about their offerings. Indeed, brand personalisation is a key feature in competitive markets.

In our view, there is no need for a rigid template format. Branding, font, font size, layout, or order of presentation should be left to operators. If the length of the contract were to be specified, a one-page summary should be sufficient to contain the key essential terms. This will protect consumers from information overload.

Cable Europe believes that the information contained in the template should not go beyond those main information elements listed by the Code in article 102 §3. We believe that these terms are the most relevant and important to help consumers take their decision at the moment of purchase. Limiting the template to these essential terms will ensure ease of comparability of different offerings.

In addition, a high level of protection can only be afforded to consumers, and a sound level playing field achieved between competing operators, if NRAs apply the same measures and initiatives (to simplify contract terms) to all providers of ECS, including providers of number-independent interpersonal communication services (NI ICS). We believe that this is what the EU legislator intended, as Article 102§3 of the Code applies to “providers of publicly available ECS other than transmission services used for the provision of machine-to-machine services”.

Our comments below relate more specifically to the main information elements required under the Code. As to additional elements, we consider that it should be possible for operators to provide details through links which, according to our experience, can be quite effective. For example, adding a link to the general terms and conditions of a contract.

Minimum information requirements

a) The name, address and contact information of the provider and, if different, the contact information for any complaint

We consider that the trader’s brand identity should be included (if it is undisputable which registered name is behind the trader’s brand identity), rather than the registered company name, as customers are more familiar with brand names than with the company name of a provider.

b) The main characteristics of the service

We agree that the name of the product plan, services in the bundle, upload and download speeds, and where applicable, tariff volume allowances are important to consumers.

However, any contract summary template must take into account the fact that detailed information on speed, and other performance indicators, do not sit well in a standard form, as presenting such information is very challenging. Therefore, we would advocate to include only those key metrics (upload and download speeds, volume allowances) in the contract summary, while giving ISPs the freedom to present additional information in a more efficient and informative manner via other channels.

Under the EU TSM Regulation, providers of internet access services are required to comply with transparency requirements on any volume limitation, speed and other quality of service parameters which may affect internet access services. In addition to including this information in the contract, providers are also required to publish the relevant information. Many do so online, sometimes by ways of interactive tools, which give the end-user greater transparency due to the fact that they use real-time data and display it in a visual way. For speeds, this can be done by giving customers access to a website where they can enter their postcode and see the quality they will get. Various independent tools are also available, and in 2019, BEREC is expected to launch a net neutrality monitoring tool. In our view, this provides greater transparency in an area concerning complex technical information, than would be feasible in a contract summary.

For items like latency, jitter and packet loss, this will vary depending on location, the time of day and network conditions, and therefore we do not think it’s appropriate (or even possible) to include such information in a contract summary. We would stress that neither the Code nor the EU TSM Regulation require operators to provide information on latency, jitter and packet loss in a contract summary, precisely for this reason.

Furthermore, we consider that a single contract summary for multiple ECSs is desirable, to ensure that converged offers (where multiple services are bundled together) are presented in a simple and consistent manner to consumers. However, the characteristics of TV products (eg. number of channels, types of content available) should not be considered main characteristics of a service as they relate to audio visual services and not to electronic communication services.

Finally, free services that top up an offering, for example, a free email account, should also not be considered as mains characteristics of a service.

c) Prices for activating the service and for recurring charges/consumption-related charges

We agree that pricing conditions are highly relevant for any contract summary. However, the contract summary should only include essential pricing terms. This includes the basic tariff product price information, including any upfront and/or recurring costs for activation and consumption of the service.

It should not, however, include other out-of-bundle costs (such as calls to non-EU destinations or premium services) as there are a wide range of prices for these services and it would be near-impossible (particularly given the length requirements) to include them. If necessary, consumers can be directed to this information through the use of hyperlinks in the template.

Discounts should be excluded as these are subject to very regular changes and can also vary regionally. Information on the cost of ancillary services (maintenance or customer care) and of terminal equipment should also be omitted, so that consumers can focus on information that’s the most relevant to their decision-making process.

Furthermore, any template should be allowed to contain a disclaimer specifying that prices may change over time.

 d) The duration of the contract and the conditions for renewal and termination

We agree that information relating to the duration of the contract, and conditions for renewal and termination are essential contract terms which have high relevance to consumers.

e) The extent to which the products and services are designed for end-users with disabilities

Whilst we support greater transparency over the accessibility of telecommunications products and services, flexibility in the format of presentation is also essential in relation to information provided to disabled citizens.

f) For internet access services, a summary of the information required under the EU TSM Regulation

On this point, please refer to section b) above.

 

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About Cable Europe

Cable Europe is the trade association that connects leading broadband cable TV operators and their national trade associations throughout the European Union. The regulatory and public policy activities of Cable Europe aim to promote and defend the industry’s policies and business interests at European and international level. The European cable industry provides high speed broadband internet, TV services, and telephony into the home of 65.8 million customers the European Union.

This paper represents the views of the full members of Cable Europe, and not necessarily those of our associate members, partners or affiliates