Implementation of the European Electronic Communications Code: Adjustments to the Italian legislation are introduced by a new Legislative Decree

On March 24, 2024, the Parliament approved provisions amending the Electronic Communications Code (ECC).[1] The amendments[2] impact on various sections of the ECC including, among others, provisions concerning the definitions set forth under the ECC as well as the sanctions applying in case of infringement, the general authorization for the provision of electronic communication services and network, and the installation of facilities (including the provisions regulating the access to land). Many amendments regard the use of aliases, probably following a recent decision of the Lazio Regional Administrative Court (TAR)[3], which annulled certain provisions of the new Alias regulation issued by the Italian Communications Authority (AGCOM)[4].

Some of the major amendments regard the following:

  • Definitions: Article 2 of the ECC was amended, both introducing new definitions and amending the existing ones. It is worth mentioning, among the new definitions, the definitions of “call center” and “interpersonal communication service which indirectly uses numbers”, which align the ECC to the relevant regulations issued over the years. The former is defined as a “service specifically organized for the management of the contacts and multichannel communications between the end-users and specialized operators or automated responders, in the context of a contractual relationship between the manager and a telecommunication operator”, while the latter means “an interpersonal communication service using as the user identifier numbering resources assigned to a different authorized subject”.

Other changes of relevance were introduced to the definitions of “electronic communication service for private use”, of “closed user group” and of “information on caller localization”.

  • Sanctions for the infringement of the ECC: Many amendments have an impact on the sanctions applying in case of infringement of the ECC. For instance, Article 30 of the ECC was amended to sanction non-compliance with regulations adopted under the ECC, which can now be sanctioned with an administrative fine ranging from EUR 240,000 to EUR 5,000,000 (but companies having a significant market power may be fined with amounts ranging from 2% to 5% of the company’s annual turnover). Another significant addition is that provided under the new paragraph 12bis of Article 30 specifically sanctioning those, including call centers, who violate Article 98decies of the ECC, regulating the access to numbers and services, by engaging in unfair business practices, fraud or abuse or in case of non-compliance with related orders and warnings issued by the competent authorities;
  • Aliases: relevant amendments also concern the use of alphanumeric codes to send business messages (so-called “aliases”). Said amendments are in line with the position recently assumed by AGCOM and aimed at contrasting the rise in frauds in the use of aliases (so-called “spoofing”). In particular, the AGCOM may impose obligations upon electronic network and service providers to block communications from abroad which unlawfully use national numbers or do not respect ITU-T recommendations. As previously mentioned, AGCOM’s newly approved regulation on the use of aliases (which preceded these amendments to the ECC) was recently annulled by the Lazio TAR on the ground of inadequate legal basis;
  • Identification obligations: Article 98-undetricies of the ECC is rephrased to clarify the scope of the obligation on electronic communications service providers to identify their clients. In fact, the previous wording was not crystal clear on whether such obligations apply only to providers of ECS on mobile lines or also to providers of fixed-line services. The new wording, instead, provides that operators must “make available […] the lists of their mobile traffic-buying customers or mobile phone subscribers”.

[1] Legislative Decree No. 259/2003

[2] Introduced by Legislative Decree no. 48/2024

[3] TAR decision no. 1692 of January 29, 2024.

[4] Annex A to the AGCOM decision no. 12/23/CIR.

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