Following a lengthy preparatory process (see the T-REGS news item of 28 July 2009) today's Belgian Official Journal contains a law amending the Electronic Communications law of 13 June 2005 "concerning the change of operator".

The new law specifically addresses the circumstances in which an end-user terminates the contract with "a provider of an Internet access service", which has provided that end-user with the possibility to create e-mail addresses or web space based on the trade name or brand name(s) of the provider of the Internet access service. Its aim is to institute a transition period of at least 6 months, during which the end-users will, upon their explicit request, still be able to receive/check e-mail and during which the website(s) of the end-users will remain reachable.

The new law requires the providers of Internet access services to develop a code of conduct and to file this code of conduct with the Belgian telecommunications regulatory authority BIPT/IBPT within 4 months from 16 June 2010.

With regard to e-mail, the code of conduct must provide for two options (the choice between the two options is made by each provider of an Internet access service, not by the end-user):

a) the establishment of an automatic interception mechanism, which forwards electronic mail arriving on the end-users' e-mail address(es) to a new e-mail address to be chosen by the end-user;

b) access to the electronic mail arriving on the end-users' e-mail address(es).

With regard to web space, the code of conduct must specify that the website(s) of the end-user remains accessible, even if the end-user can no longer use the web space via the URL associated with it.

Following a public consultation, the BIPT/IBPT will examine whether the code of conduct filed by the providers of Internet access services meets the requirements of the law. If it does, the providers of Internet access services will publish the code in a manner prescribed by the regulator, and the code will enter into force at the latest 10 months from 16 June 2010. If no code is filed by the providers of Internet access, or if the regulator considers that the filed code does not meet the requirements of the law, the Minister in charge of telecommunications will determine, upon proposal of the BIPT/IBPT, the rules for the provision of the facilities that are the subject of the law.

The forward/access capabilities must be provided to the end-users free of charge, and providers of an Internet access service are required to inform end-users of these possibilities when an end-user indicates that he/she wishes to terminate the contract, and also (within 12 months from 16 June 2010) to include, at least once a year, a clearly legible description of these capabilities on an invoice.

The full text of the law (available only in Dutch and French) is available by clicking here.

For a discussion, please contact Yves Blondeel or Alexa Veller.
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