The Belgian Institute for Post and Telecommunications (BIPT) has fined VoIP operator Skype EUR223,454 (USD253,462) for its failure to identify itself as a provider of electronic communications services via its SkypeOut service. The BIPT judged that ‘the non-compliance of the notification obligation constitutes a serious violation, which can threaten the interests of users and competitors’. SkypeOut is a paid-for service which enables users to make calls to non-Skype fixed numbers. The BIPT says following its launch on 1 October 2013 it repeatedly called on Skype to issue the required notification but the operator failed to comply, so an investigation was begun in late 2014. Submissions from Skype were received in 2015 and again in 2016, but the regulator has gone ahead with its decision to issue a fine.
The regulator says that Skype’s failure to notify means it ‘escapes the rules of the Telecom Act, such as among other things rules regarding network security, data protection, access to emergency services and the possibility for users to appeal to the office of the Ombudsman for Telecommunications. It may also hinder the action of the Belgian authorities in that Skype is able to ignore obligations concerning data retention and cooperation with the authorities through a Justice coordination cell of its own. This non-compliance with the law finally also means unfair competition with providers who do fulfil their obligations.’