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EU members unlikely to support blanket ban on zero-rating

23 Jan 2015

European legislators are unlikely to support a European Union (EU)-wide ban on positive price discrimination, which allows operators to provide unlimited free access to certain services such as Facebook, Wikipedia and music streaming services, Reuters reports. Opinions on the impact on competition of positive pricing discrimination, including zero-rating (the practice of offering toll-free data for certain applications or services), are divided and a blanket ban is unlikely to garner support from all member states. Supporters of zero-rating argue that the practice has a positive impact on competition and innovation, whilst providing greater opportunities for low-income users. Several member states and consumer rights activists, however, claim that positive price discrimination breaches net neutrality by providing privileged access to certain services and hamstringing competitors.

Net neutrality proposals put forward by Latvia suggested that the matter be left to member states to handle internally: ‘The issue of positive price discrimination could be left outside the scope of this instrument… this would allow each member state to decide whether to ban price discrimination at a national level or leave the assessment of such practices to general competition law.’

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