Vital powers that enable the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) to fine operators up to 10pc of their turnover – seen as vital in enabling realistic market regulation – have finally been granted to the regulator under the Communications Regulation (Amendment) Act, 2007.
The act, originally due in 2002, provides for the creation of new offences, including indictable offences, for breaches by operators of obligation imposed by ComReg.
The new powers for ComReg, similar to those of the Competition Authority, allow the regulator to investigate and prosecute anti-competitive behaviour or abuse of dominance in the electronic communications market.
Announcing the coming into law of the new powers, the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources Noel Dempsey TD said that in order to be effective regulators need a complete set of enforcement tools to do their job.
In this act they range from relatively minor penalties for minor infringements to more serious penalties of up to €5m or 10pc of turnover where companies commit serious violations of the regulatory framework.
The enactment of this Bill completes the work started in 2003 with the transposition of the EU legislative framework and provides a sound underpinning for investment in this sector and an improved competitive environment.
Demspey said the electronic communications market is of vital importance to the national economy and is a significant factor in determining national economic competitiveness.
Total revenues for fixed, mobile and broadcasting are estimated to be almost €4.5bn per annum and account for over 3pc of Ireland’s gross national product (GNP).
“Given the size of the electronic communications market and its importance to the continued development of the Irish economy, it is vital that ComReg is able to effectively enforce communications legislation,” said Dempsey.
“This act provides ComReg with the necessary tough powers to enable them to promote competition in the marketplace. This increased competition, including progress on unbundling the local loop, will deliver significant benefits to consumers in terms of both choice and price.”
Dempsey said the legislation forms an important part of the regulatory framework and is vital to the future of the communications sector in this country.
“It will provide the regulatory certainty to encourage new investment by existing operators and entice new entrants into the market,” he said.
By John Kennedy