Bulgaria to amend communication law

15 Dec 2011

Bulgaria’s parliament is this week expected to approve a set of amendments to the Electronic Communications Act that will focus on consumer protection and enhancing the powers of the regulator, the Communications Regulation Commission (CRC). According to local news source Novinite, the legislation, which was first introduced in June this year, will concentrate on limiting unnecessary additional charges to customers. Aiming to limit the amount of people paying early cancellation fees, the reforms will cap contract-length at a maximum of 24 months and at the end of the contract period customers will continue to pay the same tariff, but may cancel the subscription without penalty by giving the telco a month’s notice. Shorter contracts of just one year will also be made available and providers will be required to inform customers when their subscription is two months from expiry. Subscribers will also receive notification when they reach 90% of their monthly limit for data or voice services. New customers will be able to terminate their contract in the first week of service without penalty unless they explicitly forfeited this right, or received a device as part of the agreement.

Mobile operators that fail to port customers’ numbers to new providers within seven days will face fines of between BGN5,000 and BGN60,000 (USD3,326 and USD39,900) . In addition, the CRC is expected to be given new powers enabling it to guard against overcharging and amend incorrect bills, though the scope of the watchdog’s authority to intervene in this field has not been made clear.

In a separate but related matter, a blanket ban on unsolicited messages (SMS) inviting customers to participate in TV or telephone games is expected to be introduced through an amendment to the Gambling Act. This follows the decision by the Commission for Consumer Protection (CCP) earlier this month to file a class action law suit against the country’s three mobile operators, MobilTel, GloBul and Vivacom for sending, ‘persistent’ and deceptive communications to its customers encouraging them to play a cash-prize telephone game. The CCP claimed that the operators and the organisers of the game ‘misled consumers, concealed material information relating to the game and ways to refuse to participate.’