Infringement procedures

The Commission has the power to launch infringement proceedings against any Member State that fails to comply with EU telecoms law and regulations.
Enforcing full and effective implementation of the regulatory framework in electronic communications is essential for the sector’s contribution to the overall goals of the Lisbon Strategy for growth and jobs. In view of the telecoms sector’s importance, the Commission takes a proactive role to ensure that these goals are achieved.

As the guardian of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), the Commission has the power to take legal action against a Member State that is not respecting its obligation under EU law. It means, that it may open an infringement proceedings, under Article 258 of the TFEU (ex Article 226 of the TEC), against a Member State, which in the eyes of the Commission infringes Community law, in this case the Directives that make up the telecoms regulatory framework. The Commission can try to bring the infringement to an end, and, if necessary, may refer the case to theCourt of Justice.
Moreover, any person or body may lodge a complaint with the Commission against a Member State, in respect of any state measure or administrative practice which they consider incompatible with EU law. The Commission then decides whether or not further action should be taken on a complaint, following a well-defined infringement procedure.

The infringement procedure begins with a so-called "Letter of Formal Notice" to the Member State concerned, which must be answered within a specific period, usually two months. A letter of formal notice is generally preceded by an exchange of administrative letters between Commission services and the national authorities seeking clarifications on the issue at stake. If the Commission is not satisfied with the response and concludes that the Member State in question is failing to fulfil its obligations under EU law, The Commission may then send a formal request to comply with EU Law (a "Reasoned Opinion"), calling on the Member State to inform the Commission of the measures taken to comply within a specific period, usually two months.
If a Member State fails to ensure compliance with EU law, the Commission may then decide to refer the Member State to the Court of Justice. Moreover, if the infringement is based on the fact that a Member State has failed to fulfil its obligation to notify measures transposing a directive, the decision may be accompanied by a proposal that the Court impose financial penalties on the Member State concerned (lump sum or penalty payment). This possibility has been introduced by the Lisbon Treaty. However, in over 90% of infringement cases, Member States comply with their obligations under EU law before they are referred to the Court. If the Court rules against a Member State, the Member States must then take the necessary measures to comply with the judgment.
If, despite the ruling, a Member State still fails to act, the Commission may open a further infringement case under Article 260 of the TFEU (ex Article 228 of the TEC). With only one written warning before referring the Member State back to Court, it can propose that the Court impose financial penalties on the Member State concerned based on the duration and severity of the infringement and the size of the Member State (both lump sum depending on the time elapsed since the original Court ruling and a daily penalty payment for each day after a second ruling until the infringement ends). The Secretariat General, which coordinates the Commission's work on the application of Community law, provides general details oninfringement proceedings.

Proceedings against Member States

While the 27 Member States have completed the formal transposition of the regulatory framework in 2007, there were still 27 proceedings pending at the end of 2010.

The cases have covered various issues such as the independence and powers of national regulatory authorities, compliance with universal service obligations, the provision of caller location information to emergency services, and number portability.

In 2011, specific attention will be paid to the transposition of the revised regulatory framework for electronic communications, due by 25 May 2011.


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