Dutch Authority for Consumers and Markets imposes first fines for violating net neutrality

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27 January, 2015

The Dutch Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has imposed fines on telecom operators KPN and Vodafone for violating net neutrality regulations. KPN received a €250 000 fine, Vodafone a €200 000 fine. It is the first time the ACM imposes fines for a violation of the net neutrality regulation.

The Dutch net neutrality regulation is laid down in article 7.4a of the Telecommunications Act. The provision prohibits Internet providers from differentiating in the traffic they process. Therefore, it is not allowed to hinder or block certain services, unless a legal exception is applicable. Amongst others, exceptions could be a judicial order or to prevent congestion on the network. The aim of net neutrality is to guarantee that consumers have more choice online and are able to distribute information freely.

KPN offers Internet access to consumers through WiFi-hotspots. These hotspots blocked certain VoIP services. The ACM considers blocking these services to be a violation of the net neutrality regulation, because the provision prohibits Internet providers from differentiating in the traffic that is processed. Vodafone acted in violation with the net neutrality regulation by providing consumers with the possibility to use the HBO-GO app without charging for the data used through the app. ACM states that Vodafone is influencing the consumer’s behavior with this construction, because it limits their freedom of choice. According to the ACM, such influencing is violating the net neutrality regulation.

KPN recognizes they made a mistake and will pay the imposed fine. Currently, Vodafone is investigating its possibilities to appeal the decision. Net neutrality is a heavily debated topic on both a national and European level. In general, telecom operators are opposed to a very strict net neutrality provision, because it would be at the expense of the Internet speed and quality of service. Currently, a regulation including a net neutrality provision is under examination by the Member States. The exact scope and details of the provision are yet unknown at this moment.

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