The European Court of Justice ruled Skype and similar internet-based comms providers are subject to rules governing electronic communications services in some cases, following a dispute between the company and the Belgian telecoms regulator.
In 2011, the Belgian Institute for Postal services and Telecommunications (BIPT) requested Skype provide notification of its services in accordance with telecoms regulations. A particular factor in the case is that Skype enables customers to make calls to landlines using its SkypeOut feature.
Skype, in response, said that it did not provide electronic communications services as defined by the regulation, since it did not transmit signals itself. It also said that for SkypeOut, it works with international operators which send signals on its behalf.
This initiated a long period of back-and-forth, leading Belgium’s Court of Appeal to the door of the Court of Justice. Submissions were also made by the German, Dutch and Romanian governments, and the European Commission in the case.
The ruling, issued yesterday (5 June), declared VoIP services which enable users to terminate calls on fixed or mobile networks are an electronic communications service if the software publisher is remunerated for the provision of services – Skype sells bundles of minutes and subscriptions covering these calls – and the provision of that service involves agreements with telecoms service providers which are authorised to send and terminate the calls.
Other Skype features, such as its core VoIP proposition and instant messaging, were not affected by the ruling.
Reuters reported Skype’s owner Microsoft said it will comply with the regulation, which will make it subject to more onerous regulation.
The decision will also affect rivals which offer SkypeOut-type services.Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back