ANACOM takes stock of the application of the measures to protect telecommunications clients in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic

Since the declaration of the State of Emergency ANACOM has closely monitored the communications sector's response capacity in view of the increased use arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the problems that affect communications clients. This work resulted in the submission of legislative proposals with measures to strength the protection of telecommunications clients. A series of legislative measures were enforced between March and September aimed at protecting the users of essential public services, with ANACOM currently assessing their application in the sector that it regulates.

According to the data provided by the operators, 4196 clients of communications services called for the application of the mechanisms to adapt to the crisis caused by the epidemic.

Of this number, the rate of acceptance of these client requests reached 89%, varying between 77% and 100%, depending on the provider.

Unilateral termination of the contract was the solution most requested by the clients whose purchasing power diminished as a result of the pandemic or due to the Covid-19 disease. The main providers received a total of 1296 requests for unilateral termination of their contract under Law 7/2020. Of these, 1202, or 92.7%, were accepted by the providers. The percentage acceptance of requests for contract termination varied between 89% and 100%, depending on the provider.

There were 304 requests for temporary suspension of their contract. Of these, 217, or 71%, were accepted by the providers. The percentage acceptance of requests for contract suspension varied between 53% and 100%, depending on the provider.

On 31 October, 2596 clients with outstanding debt following the non-suspension of the service requested agreements for payment plans. According to the available information, the average value of the payment plans per client varied between 215 and 426 euros (including VAT), depending on the provider, which represents between 34% and 67% of the minimum monthly wage, corresponding to a significant financial effort for the consumers.

Conversely, now from the providers' perspective, the available information indicates that the amounts involved in the payment plans range somewhere between 0.14% and 0.01% of the quarterly revenue of each provider. However, it should be noted that the total financial impact of these measures on the providers is not limited to this, as, for example, they do not take into account the present value of the future payments of the terminated contracts. On the other hand, there are no records of any costs not arising from the legal provision under review.

A series of measures shall be enforced from 1 January 2021 onwards, covering the first half of the year, which are very similar to those enforced between March and September 2020. Therefore, providers are not permitted to suspend their services to consumers who are unemployed or whose household income has fallen by 20% or more, or who are infected with Covid-19. Consumers who are unemployed or whose household income has fallen by 20% or more have the right to unilaterally terminate their contracts or suspend them until 1 January 2022.