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Decree-Law no. 177/99, of 21 of May21.05.1999
Published in D.R. number 118 (Series I-A) of 21 May 1999
Ministério do Equipamento, do Planeamento e da Administração do Território (Ministry for the Equipment, Planning and Administration of the Territory)
This statute regulates the provision of audiotext services which, given their specific characteristics, are carried by public telecommunications services.
Audiotext services, access to which may or may not be interactive, include a wide range of different services, such as conferencing, party lines, the recording and the retrieval of messages.
Under Decree-Law no. 329/90, of 23 October, such services were designated "value-added telecommunications services".
Given the specific nature of these services, the contents of which may vary considerably, and the fact that they are made available via telecommunications services, control and supervision should be carried out horizontally by the competent governmental bodies and services, focusing on copyright and related rights and the protection of personal data, and should involve the application of legislation governing gambling activities.
The special nature of these services requires that an autonomous regime governing their provision needs to be established, one that differs from the regime governing the public telecommunications services on which they are carried.
With the adoption of this statute, the relationship between service providers and the consumer will become more transparent, providing the consumer with more information. This is achieved with the creation of new access codes, itemised invoices, the possibility of blocking access to these services, the prior indication of the cost of the services, and an audible indication of every minute that has elapsed since the call started.
Under the terms of sub-paragraph a) of nr. 1 of article 198 of the Constitution, the Government hereby decrees the following:
This statute regulates access to and the provision of audiotext services.
Audiotext services are those that are carried on the fixed network telephone service or mobile network telephone services, their specific content and nature distinguishing them from the latter.
Exercise of activity
Under the terms of this statute, all audiotext service providers must be registered as such.
1. Natural or legal persons seeking to provide audiotext services must register with the Instituto das Comunicações de Portugal (ICP).
2. The following may register as audiotext service providers:
a. Self-employed natural persons;
b. Legally constituted companies.
3. For the purposes of paragraph 1, an application shall be submitted to the ICP accompanied by a certificate of the full record of the registration and of all registrations in effect at the competent company registrar.
4. Registration is prohibited in the following cases:
a. For natural or legal persons whose registration has been suspended or cancelled under the terms of article 13;
b. For entities that directly or indirectly hold a share in, wholly own, are partly or wholly owned by the natural or legal persons referred to in paragraph a).
Commencement of service
1. Entities that are registered under the terms of this statute shall inform the ICP of the services they intend to provide prior to making them available.
2. For the purposes of the previous paragraph, registered entities shall submit the following elements:
a. A declaration expressly drawn up for the purpose containing a detailed description of the service to be provided so that the respective access code can be allocated;
b. A technical plan detailing the equipment to be used;
c. An indication of the provider of support services.
3. The provision of the service may only commence 20 working days after receipt by the ICP of the information referred to in the previous paragraphs.
Rights and obligations of service providers
1. Providers of audiotext services enjoy the following rights:
a. To carry out their activity under the terms set out in sub-paragraph a) of paragraph 2 of article 5;
b. To freely set the price of the services provided.
2. Providers of audiotext services are bound by the following obligations:
a. To respect the terms, conditions and restrictions inherent in the respective access code;
b. To comply with applicable legislation in respect of advertising, copyright and related rights, consumer protection, protection of personal data, industrial property, and legislation in respect of gambling activities;
c. To use only equipment that has been approved by the competent entity;
d. To allow the ICP to verify equipment and to make information available for statistical purposes, providing easy access to the respective premises and documentation.
Relations with providers of support services
1. Contracts concluded between audiotext service providers and the providers of support services shall be drawn up in writing and shall contain the following information:
a. Identification of the contractual parties;
b. The registration number and access code allocated by the ICP;
c. A detailed description of the service to be provided as submitted to the ICP;
d. An obligation in writing in respect of the use of the support services for the provision of services in accordance with the detailed description referred to in paragraph c);
e. The method used for invoicing, together with the relevant regulations governing the settlement of amounts due;
f. Regulations that apply in the event of non-payment by customers of the amounts due for services provided when collection of amounts owed is the responsibility of the telecommunications service provider.
2. When, under the terms of the contract, the telecommunications service provider bills customers in respect of amounts owed for the provision of audiotext services, these amounts shall be shown as being autonomous.
Allocation and use of access codes
1. The ICP shall allocate audiotext service providers with different access codes based on the nature and content of the service provided, in accordance with the detailed description of the service given in the declaration submitted to the ICP.
2. Services declared as being of an erotic or sexual nature shall be allocated a specific access code.
3. Audiotext service providers shall respect the restrictions inherent in the respective access codes allocated to them.
1. Indications of the cost of audiotext services shall, depending on the service, mention:
a. The cost per minute;
b. The cost of each fifteen-second period, solely for services with a maximum duration of one minute and provided that the provider's equipment automatically terminates the call once this period has elapsed;
c. The cost of the call, for all services with fixed call costs, regardless of its duration.
2. Providers shall furnish users with information at the moment they connect to the service in the form of a ten-second recorded message charged at the rates of the telecommunications service that supports it. This message shall explain the nature of the service and, if applicable, that it is aimed at adults, and shall state the cost of the call in accordance with the regulations set out in the previous paragraphs.
3. Audiotext services shall emit an audible signal at the end of each minute that has elapsed since the start of the call.
Service access restrictions
At the request of their respective customers, support service providers shall, at no charge to the customer, block access to audiotext services, generically or selectively, in accordance with existing technology.
1. Charges shall be made for the following:
a. The act of registering;
b. Endorsements to the registration;
c. Substitution of the registration if lost.
2. Audiotext service providers shall also pay an annual charge.
3. The charges referred to in the previous paragraphs are set by the member of the Government responsible for communications and are based on the costs associated with administrative, technical, operational and supervisory tasks. Revenue shall revert to the ICP.
1. Without prejudice to the provisions contained in the previous paragraphs, the ICP is responsible for verifying that the services provided are in accordance with the access codes allocated and are in compliance with the provisions of article 9.
2. Supervision of the provision of audiotext services is also the responsibility of entities which are endowed with powers in the scope of the application of the Advertising and Copyright and Related Rights Codes, applicable consumer protection and personal data legislation, Decree-Law nº 422/89, of 2nd December, with the wording of Decree-Law nº 10/95, of 19 January, and Decree-Law n.º 11 223, of 6 November 1925, and complementary legislation.
Suspension and cancellation
1. Whenever use of the access code allocated in light of the declaration referred to in sub-paragraph a) of paragraph 2 of article 5 is found not to be in accordance with the latter, the ICP may suspend use of the access code allocated to the audiotext service provider for a maximum of two years or cancel its registration.
2. Prior to suspension or cancellation, the ICP shall inform the provider of the measures necessary to correct the situation, setting a deadline of not more than 10 days for the provider to respond.
3. If the measures are not put into effect within the deadline, the ICP may suspend use of the code or cancel the registration.
4. Registration or the allocation of new access codes to audiotext service providers in the situation referred to in the previous paragraph is prohibited.
5. Suspension of the use of the access code on the part of the audiotext service provider or the cancellation of its registration may be made public by the ICP and shall be communicated to the support service provider.
Infraction and fines
1. Without prejudice to other applicable penalties, the following constitute offences:
a. The provision of audiotext services by unregistered entities;
b. Violation of the provisions of paragraphs 1 and 3 of article 5, sub-paragraphs a), c) and d) of paragraph 2 of article 6, article 9 and paragraph 3 of article 16.
2. The offences covered by this statute incur the imposition of a fine of between PTE 100,000 and PTE 500,000 or of between PTE 1,000,000 and PTE 9,000,000, depending on whether such offences are committed by a natural or legal person.
3. The offences covered by this statute include attempt and negligence.
Processing and application of fines
1. The chairman of the ICP is responsible for application of the fines covered by this statute.
2. Starting proceedings for offences committed is the responsibility of the services of the ICP.
3. 60% of the revenue from fines reverts to the State, 40% to the ICP.
4. The ICP may make public punishments incurred for offences committed.
1. The ICP shall allocate new access codes within 15 days of the date on which this statute comes into force to the providers of value-added telecommunications services as covered by Decree-Law n.º 329/90, of 23 October, and to entities registered under the terms of Decree-Law n.º 381-A/97, of 30 December, when the services provided by them fall within the scope of article 2.
2. Audiotext service providers shall implement use of the new codes within 90 days of the date on which such codes are allocated.
3. Audiotext service providers shall comply with the provisions of paragraph 2 of article 9 within 45 days of the date on which this statute comes into force.
Seen and approved at the Council of Ministers held on 1 April 1999. - António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres - João Cardona Gomes Cravinho - José Eduardo Vera Cruz Jardim - Vítor Manuel Sampaio Caetano Ramalho - Manuel Maria Ferreira Carrilho - José Sócrates Carvalho Pinto de Sousa.
Promulgated on 4 May 1999. Let it be published.
The President of the Republic, JORGE SAMPAIO.
Countersigned on 12 May 1999.
The Prime Minister, António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres.
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