Vodafone Germany and Deutsche Telekom were deemed to have violated the European Union’s (EU) rules on roaming and net neutrality with their zero-tariff services, the bloc’s top court found, potentially drawing a line under a probe which began in 2017.
In a two-page filing, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) stated it had found zero-tariff video streaming offers Vodafone Pass and Deutsche Telekom’s StreamOn, “drew a distinction within internet traffic, by not counting towards the basic package traffic to partner applications”.
The court argued this commercial practice was contrary to a general obligation of the providers to offer equal treatment of traffic, without discrimination or interference, as required by the EU’s regulation on open internet access.
“Since those limitations on bandwidth, tethering or on use when roaming apply on account of the activation of the zero-tariff option, which is contrary to the regulation on open internet access, they are also incompatible with EU law”.
The ECJ weighed into the issue after two German courts sought its opinion, following an investigation by communications regulator Bundesnetzagentur into both services in 2017.
Vodafone Pass offered customers unlimited data for certain chat, social media, music and video applications, while StreamOn offered similar services.
In 2018, the regulator ordered the operators to extend the offer to the whole of the EU, in line with roaming regulations, and make them available to customers under the same conditions when travelling across the bloc.
However, the operators argued doing so would be economically unviable, and proceeded to launch legal challenges, triggering a three-year long court battle.
Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom have yet to respond to the ECJ’s ruling.Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back