Friday

18th Jan 2019

Focus

Latvia wants bigger fines for internet violators

  • If a Latvian internet provider breaks the rules on net neutrality, it can currently only be fined €14,000 or less (Photo: Kārlis Dambrāns)

The Latvian parliament is working on a draft law that will allow its telecoms regulator to hand out bigger fines to companies which violate EU rules on open internet.

“The regulator argues that in certain situations it is easier and cheaper for the offending party to pay the penalty than refrain from the violation,” Latvian right-wing MP Gaidis Berzins told EUobserver.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Some 62 percent of Latvian internet users go online via a smartphone - far below the EU average of 79 percent (Photo: Alexander Lyubavin)

In 2015, EU states agreed to uphold the principle of net neutrality, which says that internet providers are not allowed to slow down access to a website to give another website a competitive advantage.

The EU regulation adopted then said national governments should update their laws and lay down “effective, proportionate and dissuasive” penalties.

An investigation by this website published last week, showed that fines differed greatly between EU member states.

In Latvia, a company can be fined between €200 and €14,000 if caught violating net neutrality.

This website asked Berzins for a comment. He did not immediately reply, but wrote an email on Tuesday (11 July), explaining the €14,000 fine is the maximum allowed under the current law.

The MP said that Latvia's Public Utilities Commission, which is the responsible enforcement agency in the Baltic state, believed the penalty was “neither dissuasive nor effective” and had asked parliament to intervene.

“According to the regulator, the maximum penalty is not sufficient to prevent electronic communications service providers from committing offences,” said Berzins, a former justice minister.

The Latvian parliament, or Saeima, is working on a draft law to amend the penalty provision, allowing the enforcement agency to give a penalty that is “proportional to the offender’s net turnover in the relevant reporting year”.

A percentage of a company's turnover is also the approach taken in EU member states like Belgium, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, and the UK.

The Czech Republic is another country that has a fixed figure - a maximum fine of 10 million koruna, or €380,000 - but is also adapting the law, to have the ability to fine up to 5 percent of annual revenue.

MP Berzins said the Saeima's legal affairs committee will continue to work on this draft law after the summer break.

According to figures from Eurostat, just over 75 percent of Latvians regularly use the Internet, with only 62 percent of internet users going online with a smartphone.

Investigation

Fines on open internet vary greatly in EU

The fine for violating the EU principle of net neutrality is €9,600 in Estonia, while it can be up to €1 million in Bulgaria, Luxembourg, and Belgium.

EU admits to problems in penalty regime

Fines in the EU are often divergent and low. The European Commission proposes to change EU consumer rules to make fines more deterrent.

Exclusive

Fines for dangerous ski lifts vary widely across EU

Failure to comply with EU safety requirements for ski lifts is punished very differently across EU member states - posing a problem for the sector, as unscrupulous firms could set themselves up in states where fines are the lowest.

Some EU states face delays in 5G preparation

National governments secured a one-year extension for publishing plans to make radio frequencies available for mobile communications - but some were nevertheless unable to meet the deadline.

News in Brief

  1. Another referendum 'would take a year', Downing St says
  2. 82-year old Berlusconi to run in EU elections
  3. EU parliament votes to triple funds for democracy promotion
  4. EU parliament backs linking budget payments to rule of law
  5. Verhofstadt voted for Draghi amendment 'by mistake'
  6. 'Plan B' Brexit vote in UK parliament set for 29 January
  7. Verhofstadt wanted Draghi out of G30 group
  8. Putin heads to Serbia amid warnings against West

Are EU data watchdogs staffed for GDPR?

The success of the new general data protection regulation (GDPR) will depend on whether data protection authorities enforce the new rules - which, in turn, will be at least partly determined by how many people they employ.

Eight countries to miss EU data protection deadline

The EU starts enforcing its general data protection regulation on 25 May - but Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania and Slovenia won't be ready. The delay will cause legal uncertainty.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  2. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  3. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  4. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift
  5. German spies to monitor far-right AfD party
  6. On Morocco, will the EU ignore its own court?
  7. UK parliament rejects May's Brexit deal in historic defeat
  8. EU suggests majority vote on digital tax by 2025

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us