Portugal Faces Fines Over Universal Access Rules

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The European Commission has asked the European Court of Justice to impose a fine on Portugal because it has not respected a 2010 Court judgment requiring it to follow EU telecoms rules when deciding who should provide universal service in Portugal.

Under EU law (the Universal Service Directive), basic services must be available throughout the country, including connection to the telephone network at a reasonable price, public pay telephones and emergency telephone numbers free of charge.

The selection of any universal service provider must be based on an efficient, objective, transparent and non-discriminatory procedure. This means that all interested companies should be able to take part, and no company should be excluded from tendering.

Despite a 2010 ruling of the EU Court of Justice, Portugal has still not designated its universal service provider(s) in line with EU law. Today's decision to refer Portugal back to the Court, with a view to imposing financial penalties, follows a previous warning from the Commission in April 2011.

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