Consumers get more rights in telecom contracts

It will be easier to cancel contracts in a shorter time or when the terms change

A new law will change the contract terms for telecom contracts. The Amendment to the Electronic Communications Act takes effect Sept. 2, and it applies to both previously concluded and new contracts.

The amendment reduces the notice period for contracts to a maximum of 30 days. Previously the time was not regulated, and each service provider set their own terms. Rules for mobile phones, internet service providers and other publicly available electronic communications services will be made more stringent.

“The amendment, after three years, changes the anti-consumer provisions that significantly reduced competition in the telecommunications market,” Czech Telecommunication Office (ČTÚ) chairman Jaromír Novák said in a press release.

There is also a change in the way contracts are renewed for a fixed term. Previously, if a person was not interested in automatically renewing a contract, he or she had to tell the provider that he did not agree with the automatic renewal at a specified time. Now the automatic renewal of a fixed-term contract takes place only if the customer gives his or her demonstrable consent. Otherwise, it becomes an indefinite contract.

Another new benefit for consumers is that if the operator unilaterally changes the contract, the customer has the right to withdraw from the contract without penalty on the day the contract is changed. The operator also has to inform the user of the changes and of the right to withdraw. The customer can withdraw even if the changes have no detrimental impact. Previously, this option has been limited only to cases where the change was substantial and to the detriment of the user.

If the operator fails to follow these provisions, it is a misdemeanor that may result in a fine of up to 5 percent of the net turnover from the last completed accounting period.

Telecom providers have six months to bring contracts in line with the changes, but the changes are effective as of Sept. 2.

The new rules will apply to all existing and new contractual relationships. The obligation stems directly from the law. This legal interpretation was previously confirmed by the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic in a similar case.

The Amendment to the Electronic Communications Act also made technical changes to digital broadcasting regarding spectrum allocation to ensure that free to air programming remains available. This is in line with EU standards. Consumers will need new set-top boxes by 2021.

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