Consumer-friendly telecom rules come into force across EU

From February 20, laws will be in place to help ensure that all 500 million European Union citizens are able to get information on real connection speeds from internet service providers and switch telecom operators within a day without changing their phone numbers.

These rights have been available in principle since May 2011, but many EU member states struggled to put the directive into action and the Commission was forced to launch proceedings against a number of countries.

With the directive now transposed into national law across the EU, the European Commission - the body charged with seeing the telecom law implemented - is set to drop its last infringement proceeding on February 20.

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The rules give EU citizens and businesses higher levels of consumer protection than existed previously. For example, ISPs must inform customers about possible restrictions on access to particular services, such as voice over IP services, or degradation of such services - so-called bandwidth throttling.

"Customers should not be led to believe they can access services that in practice are blocked or degraded. Nor should customers be given misleading claims about connection speeds," the Commission said.

These rules also require operators to inform individuals about any personal data that is lost. According to the rules now in place, consumers will be able to press for sanctions if the information is not forthcoming.