Telecoms regulators ‘unprepared’

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Series Details Vol.4, No.7, 19.2.98, p28
Publication Date 19/02/1998
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Date: 19/02/1998

By Peter Chapman

THE telecom regulators who are supposed to be policing the EU's new liberalised markets are hopelessly unprepared for the job, warns the head of a new industry forum.

Ernst Weiss, chairman of the European Telecommunication Platform (ETP), which brings together telecoms operators, user groups and service providers to highlight regulatory issues and potential problems, cites Germany's new independent regulator as the worst example.

"You really need to look at the qualifications of the regulators. Germany is just about the worst one. They have 230 civil servants from the old ministry whose background is law. There is no change from before. They have also employed about 40 experts with economics backgrounds, but they are mainly academics. They don't have experience of the industry," he explained.

Weiss praises Sweden as an example of best practice in picking the right people with the know-how to carry out the job of ensuring that operators do not fall foul of the EU's complex telecoms liberalisation regime.

"I use Sweden as a good example. About one-third of its regulators are from the industry, one-third civil servants and one- third from business," he said.

Regulators have to audit and publish annual reports on how the big operators charge their rivals for access to their networks and how this relates to the costs involved.

Many are hopelessly unprepared for this complex task and will need extra training, according to Weiss, who points out that the European Commission has brought in international accountancy firm Arthur Andersen to show them how to do it.

The Commission has also asked the ETP to inform it of regulators not doing their job and to highlight market barriers faced by firms, as part of its continued monitoring of the evolving telecoms market in each member state.

The recent row over Deutsche Telekom's plans to charge customers for the cost of exercising their right to switch operators is precisely the kind of problem the ETP will watch for. "That was just a show of muscle from Deutsche Telekom," claimed Weiss. "These are exactly the kind of things that need to be monitored - and that is why this new organisation is going to be so important."

The ETP will not, however, only focus on abuses of market share and disputes over problems such as interconnection.

It will also try to thrash out common positions and industry codes of practice before arguments occur "on issues that threaten to disturb the relations between market players", said Weiss.

Report of comments by Ernst Weiss, chairman of the new European Telecommunication Platform.

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