ANACOM presents a new assessment of the application of measures to protect telecommunications customers in the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic

Since the declaration of the state of emergency, ANACOM has been engaged in close monitoring of the communications sector, assessing how the sector has responded to increased use due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to the problems affecting communications customers. This work resulted in the presentation of legislative proposals with measures designed to strengthen consumer protection.

Similar to the measures adopted between March and September 2020, a set of legislative measures were in force during the first half of 2021 with the aim of ensuring protection of users of essential public services. ANACOM is now evaluating the application of these measures with respect to the sector that it regulates.

According to the data provided by operators, there were 6,835 customers of communications services that, during the first half of 2021, invoked the application of mechanisms to adapt to the crisis caused by the pandemic. Of these, 3,676 benefited from some of the guarantees provided for in the Law, 8% fewer than in the previous year (between 20 March 2020 and 30 September 2020). The rate of acceptance for customer requests was 54%.

Temporary suspension of contracts was the most requested solution by customers who saw diminished purchasing power due to the pandemic; suspension was granted to 979 customers under article 361 of Law no. 75-B/2020 Unilateral contract termination was granted to 866 customers.

During the first half of 2021, there were 1,123 customers with outstanding amounts following the non-suspension of service who agreed payment plans with their providers to settle these sums. Based on available information, it is estimated that the average amount covered by the payment plan was 683 euros (including VAT) per customer, approximately 4% higher than the minimum monthly wage in force (665 euros) and corresponding to approximately 20 average monthly bills for bundled services. By provider, these values ranged between 282 and 1,023 euros. The average instalment payable by beneficiaries is estimated at 88 euros per month, which is equivalent to two average bills for bundled services.

On the other hand, from the providers, available information indicates that the sums covered by the payment plans amount to a maximum of 0.11% and a minimum of 0.03% of the quarterly revenues of each provider.

As regards the possibility of reactivating suspended services during the period from 1st October to 31st December 2020, there were 721 customers who benefited from free-of-charge reactivation. By provider, the acceptance rate ranged between 78% and 100%.

It should also be noted that 289 complaints were received from consumers about access to the guarantees established under article 361 of Law no. 75-B/2020. It should be noted that the information that is being provided here does not have bearing on and does not reflect the results of ANACOM's oversight of the complaints it receives and of operator practices; in this regard, where there is indication of non-compliance with the exceptional rules defined in the period of response to the pandemic, ANACOM will proceed with investigation and sanctioning procedures as justified, within the scope of its powers and responsibilities as a regulatory authority in the electronic communications sector.