REPORT on the proposal for a European Parliament and Council Directive on connected telecommunications equipment and the mutual recognition of the conformity of equipment (COM(97)0257 - C4-0275/97 - 97/0149(COD))

22 January 1998

Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy
Rapporteur : Mrs Imelda Mary Read

By letter of 6 June 1997 the Commission submitted to Parliament, pursuant to Article 189b(2) of the EC Treaty and Article 100A of the EC Treaty, the proposal for a European Parliament and Council Directive on connected telecommunications equipment and the mutual recognition of the conformity of equipment (COM(97)0257 - C4-0275/97 - 97/0149(COD)).

At the sitting of 25 June 1997 the President of Parliament announced that he had referred this proposal to the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy as the committee responsible.

At its meeting of 18 June 1997 the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy had appointed Mrs Imelda Mary Read rapporteur.

The Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy considered the Commission proposal and the draft report at its meetings of 25 September 1997, 4 November 1997, 2 December 1997 and 21 January 1998.

At the last meeting it adopted the draft legislative resolution unanimously.

The following were present for the vote: von Wogau, chairman; Katiforis and Secchi, vicechairmen; Read, rapporteur, Areitio Toledo, Argyros, Arroni, Barton, Billingham, Camison Asensio, Carlsson, Castagnede, Cassidy, Caudron, Christodoulou, Cox, de Brémond d'Ars, de Lassus Saint Genies, de Rose, Donnelly, Fourçans, Friedrich, García Arias, García-Margallo, Gasoliba I Böhm, Giansily, Glante, Hautala, Hendrick, Herman, Ilaskivi, Konrad, Kuckelkorn, Langen, Larive, Lindqvist , Lulling, Mather, Mann E., Mann T., McCarthy, Miller, Murphy, Paasilinna, Peijs, Pérez Royo, Rapkay, Skinner, Tappin, Thyssen,Watson, Wibe and Wolf.

The report was tabled on 22 January 1998.

The deadline for tabling amendments will be indicated in the draft agenda for the relevant partsession.

A LEGISLATIVE PROPOSAL - DRAFT LEGISLATIVE RESOLUTION

Proposal for a European Parliament and Council Directive on connected telecommunications equipment and the mutual recognition of the conformity of equipment (COM(97)0257 - C40275/97 - 97/0149(COD))

The proposal is approved with the following amendments:

Text proposed by the Commission[1]

Amendments by Parliament

(Amendment 1)

Title

Proposal for a European Parliament and Council Directive on connected telecommunications equipment and the mutual recognition of the conformity of equipment

Proposal for a European Parliament and Council Directive on radio and telecommunications terminal equipment and the mutual recognition of their conformity

(Connected telecommunications equipment (CTE) to be replaced by telecommunications terminal equipment (RTTE) throughout the text)

(Amendment 2)

Recital 3a (new)

Whereas, given the increasing importance of telecommunications terminal equipments and network using radio transmission besides equipment connected through wired links, any regulation on the manufacturing, marketing and use of RTTE should cover both classes of such equipment;

(Amendment 3)

Recital 10

Whereas connected telecommunications equipment can occupy an excessive proportion of limited resources such as radio frequency spectrum;

Whereas the most efficient possible use according to the state of the art of limited resources such as radio frequency spectrum is to be ensured and promoted;

(Amendment 4)

Recital 14

Whereas telecommunications are important to the well-being and employment of people with disabilities who represent a substantial and growing proportion of the population of Europe;

Whereas telecommunications are important to the well-being and employment of people with disabilities who represent a substantial and growing proportion of the population of Europe; whereas telecommunications equipment should therefore whenever possible be designed in such a way that disabled people may use it without or with minimal adaption;

(Amendment 5)

Recital 20a (new)

whereas this Directive does not restrict the non-commercial building, transformation or use of RTTE in Amateur Radio and Satellite services by licensed radio amateurs;

(Amendment 6)

Article 1

Scope and aim

This Directive establishes a European Community regulatory framework for the placing on the market, free circulation and putting into service of Connected Telecommunications Equipment (CTE) which complies with the essential requirements

Scope and aim

This Directive establishes a European Community regulatory framework for the placing on the market, free movement and putting into service of Radio Equipment (RE) operating in harmonized frequency bands and for Terminal Telecommunications Equipment (TTE) which attaches to fixed networks.

This Directive also establishes a European Community regulatory framework for free movement of Radio Telecommunications Equipment (RTE).

(Amendment 7)

Article 2 (e)

(e) Harmonized standard

A technical specification adopted by a recognized standards body under a mandate from the Commission in conformity with the procedures laid down in Council Directive 83/189/EEC (9) for the purpose of establishing a European requirement, compliance with which is not compulsory.

(e) Harmonized standard

A technical specification adopted by a recognized standards body under a mandate from the Commission in conformity with the procedures laid down in Council Directive 83/189/EEC (9) for the purpose of establishing a European requirement, compliance with which is recommended and may be encouraged while not being compulsory.

(Amendment 8)

Article 3

1. The following general essential requirements are applicable to all CTE :

(a) the essential requirements contained in Directive 73/23/EEC with respect to safety whatever the voltage limits of the CTE are satisfied;

b) the essential requirements contained in Directive 89/336/EEC with respect to electromagnetic compatibility are satisfied.

2. The specific essential requirements applicable to each type of CTE may be selected in accordance with the provisions of Article 4 from the following list :

(a) prevention of misuse of network resources causing an unacceptable degradation of service to other than the user of the CTE ;

(b) interworking via network(s) and Community-wide portability between ONTPs of the same type;

(c) effective use of spectrum allocated to terrestrial/space radio communication.

1. The RTTE referred to in Article 2 shall be so constructed that :

-(i) the equipment or the proper used thereof does not endanger the health or the safety of the user or any other person;

-(ii) within reasonable possibilities the equipment may be used by disabled users or can be adapted to their needs;

(a) the essential requirements contained in Directive 73/23/EEC with respect to safety whatever the voltage limits of the equipment are satisfied;

(b) the essential requirements contained in Directive 89/336/EEC with respect to electromagnetic compatibility are satified;

2. Radio equipment shall be so constructed that the equipment effectively uses the spectrum allocated to terrestrial/space radio communication and orbital resources, in accordance with ITU Radio Regulations and ERC Decisions. For equipment exclusively intended for the Amateur Radio Service as defined by the International Telecommunications Union Radio Regulations RR S1.56 and for the Amateur Satellite Service as defined by the Radio Regulations RR S1.57, compliance with the essential requirements can be proven by a technical specification covering only limitation of emissions outside bands allocated to the Amateur Radio Service without prejudice of Article 8.

3. Terminal equipment shall be so constructed that :

(a) misuse of network resources causing an unacceptable degradation of service is prevented.

(b) it properly interworks with the network(s).

4. In accordance with the procedure laid down in Article 12, the Commission may decide that Terminal Equipment within certain Equipment Class shall be so constructed that:

(a) it can be ported between NTPs of the same type in the Community :

and/or that

(b) it contains safeguards to ensure that the individual privacy of the user is protected ;

and/or that

(c) it supports certain features ensuring access to safety and emergency services ;

5. In the interest of people with special needs and in accordance with the procedure laid down in Article 12, the Commission may decide that Terminal equipment, which may be used by people with special needs shall support certain features.

6. In the case of harmonised standards, the applicable essential requirements to each RTTE type shall be specified by ETSI.

(Amendment 9)

Article 4

Identification of relevant specific essential requirements

Publication of specifications of interface points

1. The Commission shall identify the specific essential requirements applicable to each CTE type in accordance with the procedure laid down in Article 12. In selecting the applicable essential requirements, the Commission shall give, as appropriate, due consideration to:(a) protection of health,(b) features for users with disabilities,(c) features for emergency and security services,(d) protection of individual privacy.

1. Member States shall notify the Commission of the radio interfaces they have regulated unless they have been notified pursuant to the provisions of Directive 83/189/EEC. After consulting the Committee provided for in Article 12, the Commission shall establish the equivalence between the interfaces notified and shall determine an equipment category indicator, which shall be published in the Official Journal of the European Communities.

The applicable specific essential requirements shall be published in the Official Journal of the European Communities

2. Member States shall notify the Commission of the types of ONTP which are available or due to become available as soon as they are aware of them. In turn, the Commission shall inform the Committee referred to in Article 12 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Committee') of existing and planned ONTP types.

2. Member States shall notify the Commission of the types of NTP which are used by networks offering services to the public. Member States shall ensure that the operators of networks offering services to the public publish and regularly update accurate and adequate technical specifications concerning these network termination points. These specifications should be in sufficient detail to permit the design of compatible terminal equipment.

3. Member States shall ensure that the operators of all networks publish and regularly update accurate and adequate technical specifications of the available ONTPs and the CTE types supported. The specifications should be in sufficient detail to permit the design of compatible CTE.

(Amendment 10)

Article 5 (1)

When CTE meets the relevant harmonized standards whose reference numbers have been published in the Official Journal of the European Communities, Member States shall presume compliance with those of the essential requirements referred to in Article 3 and Article 4 as are covered in these

standards. At the choice of the manufacturer and, in particular, in the absence of a harmonized standard, compliance with the relevant essential requirements can be demonstrated by means of compliance with a technical specification appropriate to the relevant essential requirements.

When RTTE meets the relevant harmonized standards whose reference numbers have been published in the Official Journal of the European Communities, Member States shall presume compliance with those of the essential requirements referred to in Article 3 and Article 4 as are covered in these standards. In the absence of a harmonized standard, compliance with the relevant essential requirements can be demonstrated by means of compliance with a publicly available specification appropriate to the relevant essential requirements in accordance with the procedures provided for in Article 9(4).

2. Where a Member State or the Commission considers that the harmonized standard referred to in paragraph 1 does not conform to the specific essential requirements referred to in Article 3(2) and Article 4(1), the Commission or the Member State concerned shall bring the matter before the Committee and initiate the procedures described in Article 12.

2. Where a Member State or the Commission considers that the harmonized standard or a technical specification referred to in paragraph 1 does not comply with the essential requirements referred to in Article 3(2), which it is intended to cover, the Commission or the Member State concerned shall bring the matter before the Committee.

After consulting the Committee, and in accordance with the procedure provided for in Article 12, the Commission may circulate guidelines concerning the interpretation of the harmonized standard and may publish a list of the corrections made to the harmonized standard, pending formal correction thereof. After consulting the Committee, and in accordance with the procedure provided for in Article 12, the Commission may withdraw the harmonized standards from publication in the Official Journal of the European Communities.

(Amendment 11)

Article 6, par. 3a (new)

3a. Home built equipment, kits and modified commercial equipment, intended exclusively for use by licensed radio amateurs and not intended to be placed on the market, are exempted from the requirements of this Article.

(Amendment 12)

Article 6 (3b) (new)

3b. Member States shall ensure that any interested party, in particular network operators and consumers' unions, is in a position to bring to its attention cases of apparent non-compliance of a given RTTE with the appropriate essential requirements and that such cases are subject to a proper and timely adequate investigation.

(Amendment 13)

Article 6(3c) (new)

3c. Where a telecommunications operator can demonstrate that CTE declared to be in conformity with this Directive causes damage to his network or is not being used properly, the surveillance authority may authorize him to refuse to connect the equipment to his network. Member States shall notify the Commission of such authorization.

(Amendment 14)

Article 7

Non-compliance

1. Where a Member State finds that CTE being placed on the market in its territory does not comply with the essential requirements relevant to the CTE type, it shall take all appropriate measures to withdraw such products from the market and prohibit their being placed on the market.

2. The Member State concerned shall immediately notify the Commission of all decisions relating to non compliance indicating the reasons for its decision and whether non-compliance is due to:

(a) incorrect application of the harmonized standards referred to in Article 5,

(b) shortcomings in the harmonized standards referred to in Article 5,

(c) use of an inappropriate technical specification.

3. Where the non compliance referred to in paragraph 2 is attributed to shortcomings in the harmonized standards applicable the Commission shall bring the matter before the Committee within two months of the date of notification by the Member State.

4. The Commission shall keep the Member States informed of the progress and outcome of any procedure initiated pursuant to paragraph 3.

Non-compliance

1. Where a Member State ascertains that equipment within the scope of this Directive does not comply with the requirements referred to in Article 3, it should take all appropriate and proportionate measures in its territory to withdraw the equipment from the market, prohibit its placing on the market or restrict its free movement.

2. The Member State concerned shall immediately notify the Commission and other Member States of any such measures indicating the reasons for its decision and whether non-compliance is due to:

(a) incorrect application of the harmonized standards referred to in Article 5,

(b) shortcomings in the harmonized standards referred to in Article 5,

(c) failure to satisfy the requirements referred to in Article 3, where the equipment does not meet the standards referred to in Article 5(1).

3. Where the decision referred to in paragraph 1 is attributed to incorrect application of the harmonized standards referred to in Article 5 or is attributed to a failure to satisfy those requirements, when the equiment does not meet the standards referred to in Article 5(1), the Commisssion shall consult the parties concerned as soon as possible. If the Commission finds, after such consultations, that the action is justified, it shall forthwith so inform the Member State that took the action and the other Member States.

Where the decision referred to in paragraph 1 is attributed to shortcomings in the standards, the Commission shall bring the matter before the Committee within two months which shall deliver an opinion in accordance with the procedure laid down in Article 15. If the Commission finds, after such consultation, that the action is justified, it shall forthwith so inform the Member State that took the action and other Member States and shall initiate the procedures referred to in Article 5(2).

4. The Commission shall keep the Member States informed of the progress and outcome of any procedure initiated pursuant to paragraph 3 and 4.

5. During the procedures initiated pursuant to paragraph 3 and 4 the equipment concerned can continue to be placed on the market.

6. The Commission shall maintain a record of the cases, notified by Member States

(Amendment 15)

Article 11

1. CTE complying with the relevant essential requirements shall bear the CE conformity marking referred to in Annex IV. It shall be affixed by the manufacturer or his authorized representative within the Community. Where appropriate, it shall be accompanied by the identification number of the notified body referred to in Article 10(2). Any other marking may be affixed to the equipment provided that the visibility and legibility of the CE marking is not thereby reduced.2. No CTE, whether it complies with the relevant essential requirements or not, may bear any other marking which is likely to deceive third parties as to the meaning and form of the CE marking specified in Annex IV

1. RTTE complying with all the relevant essential requirements and all the Directives applicable to it shall bear the CE conformity marking referred to in Annex IV. It shall be affixed by the manufacturer or his authorized representative within the Community. As far as possible, it shall be accompanied by the identification number of the notified body referred to in Article 10(2) and by any other relevant information permitting identification of the legal person bearing liability in the event of non-compliance with essential requirements. If conformity derives from compliance with harmonized standards, the reference to the standard may be incorporated into the marking or added to it. Any other marking may be affixed to the equipment provided that the visibility and legibility of the CE marking is not thereby reduced and that it is clearly distinguished from it.2. No RTTE, whether it complies with harmonized standards or not, may bear any other marking which is likely to deceive third parties as to the meaning and form of the CE marking specified in Annex IV.

(Amendment 16)

Article 12

1. The Commission shall be assisted by a Committee, the Telecommunication Conformity Assessment and Market surveillance committee (TCAM), of an advisory nature composed of the representatives of the Member States and chaired by the representative of the Commission.

2. The Committee shall be consulted on the matters covered by Articles 4, 5 and 7.

3. The Committee may be consulted, where necessary, on the effectiveness of the surveillance tasks related to the operation of this directive.

4. The representative of the Commission shall submit to the Committee a draft of the measures to be taken. The Committee shall deliver its opinion on the draft, within a time-limit which the chairman may lay down according to the urgency of the matter, if necessary by taking a vote.

The opinion shall be recorded in the minutes; in addition, each Member State shall have the right to ask to have its position recorded immediately.

The Commission shall take the utmost account of the opinion delivered by the Committee. It shall inform the Committee of the manner in which its opinion has been taken into account and decide within one month after having received the opinion of the Committee.

5. The Commission shall periodically consult the representatives of the telecommunications networks providers, the consumers and the manufacturers. It shall keep the Committee regularly informed of the outcome of such consultations.

1. The Commission shall be assisted by a Committee, the Telecommunication Conformity Assessment and Market surveillance committee (TCAM), of an advisory nature composed of the representatives of the Member States and chaired by the representative of the Commission. The Commission shall consult the representatives of the telecommunications network providers, the consumers and the manufacturers on a continuous basis. It shall keep the Committee regularly informed of the outcome of such consultations.

2. The Committee shall be consulted on the matters covered by Articles 3, 4, 5 and 6. The agendas of the meetings and the relevant documents shall be made public without delay including on the Internet.

3. The Committee may be consulted, where necessary, on the effectiveness of the surveillance tasks related to the operation of this directive.

4. The representative of the Commission shall submit to the Committee a draft of the measures to be taken. The Committee shall deliver its opinion on the draft, within a time-limit which the chairman may lay down according to the urgency of the matter, if necessary by taking a vote.

The opinion shall be recorded in the minutes and made public without delay including on the Internet; in addition, each Member State shall have the right to ask to have its position recorded immediately.

The Commission shall take the utmost account of the opinion delivered by the Committee. It shall inform the Committee of the manner in which its opinion has been taken into account and decide within one month after having received the opinion of the Committee.

(Amendment 17)

Article 13

Review and reporting

The Commission shall review the operation of this directive and report thereon to the European Parliament and to the Council, on the first occasion not later than [31 December 1999[ and every third year thereafter. This review shall inter alia assess whether the scope of the directive should be maintained or should be reduced taking account of technical development. The report shall cover progress on drawing up the relevant standards, as well as any problems that have arisen in the course of implementation. The report shall also outline the activities of the Committee, and assess progress in achieving an open competitive market for CTE at Community level. It shall in particular examine whether essential requirements are still necessary for all categories of terminal equipment covered.

Review and reporting

The Commission shall review the operation of this directive and report thereon to the European Parliament and to the Council, on the first occasion not later than [31 December 1999[ and every third year thereafter. This review shall inter alia assess whether the scope of the directive should be maintained or should be reduced taking account of technical development and how the regulatory framework for placing on the market and putting into service of radio and telecommunications terminal equipment should be developed to

a) ensure that a coherent system is achieved at Community level for all radio and telecommunications terminal equipment;

b) allow for convergence of telecommunications, audiovisual and information technology sectors;

c) enable harmonisation of regulatory measures at an international level.

The report shall cover progress on drawing up the relevant standards, as well as any problems that have arisen in the course of implementation. The report shall also outline the activities of the Committee, and assess progress in achieving an open competitive market for CTE at Community level. It shall in particular examine whether essential requirements are still necessary for all categories of terminal equipment covered.

(Amendment 18)

Article 14

Transitional provisions

1. The harmonized standards or parts thereof identified through Common Technical Regulations adopted under Directive 91/263/EEC or Directive 93/97/EEC may be used as the basis for a presumption of conformity with the specific essential requirements referred to Article 3 (2) and Article 4 (1) until such time as the Commission indicates, by publication in the Official Journal of the European Communities, that they are no longer applicable.

Transitional provisions

1. The harmonized standards or parts thereof identified through Common Technical Regulations adopted under Directive 91/263/EEC or Directive 93/97/EEC may be used as the basis for a presumption of conformity with the specific essential requirements referred to Article 3. The Commission will publish a list of references to these standards in the Official Journal of the European Communities, immediately after this Directive comes into force.

(Amendment 19)

Article 16

Directive 91/263/EEC, Directive 97/97/EC and Article 11 of Directive 93/68/EEC are hereby repealed.

From the entry into force of the present Directive, Directive 91/263/EEC, Directive 93/97/EC and Article 11 of Directive 93/68/EEC shall not be applicable any more to RTTE produced in the Community or in those third countries which grant reciprocal or equivalent treatment to RTTE produced in the Community.

Legislative resolution embodying Parliament's opinion on the proposal for a European Parliament and Council Directive on connected telecommunications equipment and the mutual recognition of the conformity of equipment (COM(97)0257 - C4-0275/97 - 97/0149(COD))

(Codecision procedure: first reading)

The European Parliament,

- having regard to the Commission proposal to Parliament and the Council, COM(97)0257 - 97/0149(COD)[2],

- having regard to Article 189b(2) of the EC Treaty and Article 100A of the EC Treaty, pursuant to which the Commission submitted the proposal to Parliament (C4-0275/97),

- having regard to Rule 58 of its Rules of Procedure,

- having regard to the report of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy (A4-0023/00),

1. Approves the Commission proposal, subject to Parliament's amendments;

2. Calls on the Commission to alter its proposal accordingly, pursuant to Article 189a(2) of the EC Treaty;

3. Calls on the Council to incorporate Parliament's amendments in the common position that it adopts in accordance with Article 189b(2) of the EC Treaty;

4. Should the Council intend to depart from the text approved by Parliament, calls on the Council to notify Parliament and requests that the conciliation procedure be initiated;

5. Points out that the Commission is required to submit to Parliament any modification it may intend to make to its proposal as amended by Parliament;

6. Instructs its President to forward this opinion to the Council and Commission.

  • [1]  OJ C 248, 14.08.1997, p. 4
  • [2]  OJ C 248, 14.08.1997, p. 4

B. EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

Introduction

Placing radio and telecommunications equipment on the market is presently subject to approval by a telecommunications authority or assessment body in the Member States.

In 1991, a mutual recognition principle was implemented through Directive 91/263/EEC[1]. This helped manufacturers to avoid having to repeat similar assessment procedures in each and every country, thus allowing for the single market to become a reality. However, restrictive implementation in national laws prevented this Directive from achieving all of its potential benefits.

However, the "economic landscape" for telecommunications has changed dramatically over a few years, with mobile or computer-related telecommunications becoming a substantial part of sales and new product development, the emergence of new categories of networks, such as cable TV and GSM. This makes for a fast moving market with innovative products, the life-cycle of which is usually below 3 years while assessment and approval procedures not unfrequently last up to 18 months.

Therefore the Commission proposal for a more flexible regime can lead to a real improvement to the proper functioning of this market, the reduction of the costs, the dissemination of new technologies and the development of competition in networks as well as in equipment.

This lighter approach would be based upon manufacturer's self-testing and unilateral declarations of conformity : after all, this is what applies to other technologically similar devices such as TV sets, audio equipment or computers, subject to general safety requirements as well as specific requirements on electro-magnetic compatibility to avoid radio interferences.

This can cover not only telecommunications equipment (wired or wireless) but also all kinds of radio-wave equipment whether they are used for telecommunications, broadcasting or remote control of appliances.

The proposition of the Commission covers all such equipment without prejudicing of possible licensing requirements on their use.

A word about the procedure

The internal preparation of the Commission proposal was unusually long and involved the industry much less than is usual for such technical texts. In particular the consequences of including radio equipment have been underestimated.

To the credit of the Commission, it must be said that it was subsequently responsive to the comments it received so it assisted the Presidency in office in drafting a widely circulated "tuned-up" version which significantly improves its initial text. Although the Commission's proposal is the only text with an official existence, your rapporteur has taken into account the Presidency text, assuming that most technical improvements contained in it will be carried into the Common Position of the Council without there being necessity to table specific Parliament amendments, which can therefore be in a position to concentrate on the more political issues.

This is of course without prejudice to her position in second reading and does not constitute an approval of the others' Institutions practice: a modified proposal by the Commission would have been a much sounder way to address this necessary revision.

The Commission's proposal

This proposal departs markedly from previous type-approval practices under national regimes and Directive 91/263/EEC. The inclusion of radio equipment is also an innovation. The proposal in its present form therefore addresses the following aspects:

- definition of the equipment concerned and of the essential requirements to be safeguarded

The equipment concerned now include any kind of radio transmitting equipment (even if it is not used for telecommunications, stricto sensu, e.g. control devices or broadcasting senders) as well as equipment to be connected to any kind of networks, public or private, offering telecommunications services to the public.

Essential requirements are those which prove necessary to prevent harmful effects by the equipment concerned. Harm can be understood in two different ways: from a technical point of view, it can be damage to the network or to its operation, including any kind of disturbance on interference especially relating to the use of the frequency spectrum. From a usage point of view, it is the harm to people, from physical injury to the disruption of their privacy or living conditions.

The fact that a piece of equipment complies with the essential requirements does not however imply any appraisal of its intrinsic quality.

- procedure for ensuring compliance by the manufacturer of the equipment with the essential requirements

Provided it complies with the essential requirements, any equipment will be able to be placed on the market. Its manufacturer or supplier will however have to guarantee this compliance by providing the purchaser all the information necessary to identify him and for normal usage of the equipment on its intended network(s).

The results of the internal production tests will have to be kept at the disposal of an official body for assessment.

It should be noted that compliance with harmonized standards will suffice to prove compliance with the essential requirements (which are a fundamental part of them) but they are neither mandatory nor the only accepted such specification.

Official assessment prior to the placing on the market will however still be needed for radio equipment to ensure proper use of the spectrum.

To ensure that manufacturers can comply with the technical specifications that are needed to guarantee the proper operation of their equipment on the various networks, the network operators will have to make available their detailed interface specifications or to inform on the harmonised standards that will guarantee proper interfacing.

- a posteriori control of compliance and consequences of non-compliance (including liability)

The absence or limitation of prior type-approval does not prevent Member States from exercising their responsibility in surveillance and preservation of public interest. Not only is it possible for the Member State to access and verify all the declarations by the manufacturers, but it can take all necessary measures to avoid harmful effects of non-compliance, including withdrawing products from the market.

Besides this public order aspect, manufacturers or suppliers responsible for placing on the market non-compliant equipment or for facilitating an improper use of their equipment in a harmful way will be liable towards the users under the rules of Directive 85/374/EEC on the liability for defective products, and to any other person (including in particular network operators) for direct damage only.

The proposal does not specifically mention the right for a network operator to disconnect noncompliant equipment. However, the obligation for network operators to accept connection of compliant equipment implies a contrario that non-compliant equipment may be rejected or disconnected.

Critical appraisal

Your rapporteur welcomes the principles underlying the present proposal. Experience with the present type-approval approach shows that the advantages of thorough prior testing of standardised products do not overcome the shortcomings of the system in terms of cost and delays, and are bound to vanish in a flexible environment of heterogenous interconnected networks with diverse contents.

This new approach entails its own risks, however. The most obvious one is the connection of equipment which, despite the manufacturer's declarations, would not comply with the essential requirements, thus harming the users or the network.

Economic hazards are less obvious risks, but they may occur: an example would be the detrimental effects for operators if equipment placed on the market were of such a low quality that users might unreasonably accuse the operator of poor service, and hinder the development of the corresponding network. The simultaneous existence of various networks, each one with its own interface specifications, could also lead to fragmentation of the market, with operators trying to ensure a captive audience by requiring specific terminals which their customers would be unable to use on other competitors' networks.

Finally, there is the risk that technical innovations lead to the development of more and more products that disabled people would not be able to use. This group is particularly dependent on telecommunications not only as a communications tool but also as an employment opportunity (e.g. blind switchboard operators).

To assess the reality and extent of these risks, your rapporteur has undertaken extensive consultations with manufacturers, operators and users' representatives.

Failures or disturbances caused by inadequate connections or non-compliant equipment have a real chance of occurring and are not just an imaginary threat. However, it is very unlikely that such problems might occur on more than one line or a neighbouring group of lines. They should be traceable without difficulty and have limited consequences for the users or the networks.

Unlike these "technical" risks, the "social and economical" risks would, if they become a reality, have immediate large-scale consequences.

Regarding the disabled users, it should be borne in mind that access to telephony, and more widely to telecommunications, is vital for disabled people to be able to have contacts for normal daily life but also for their occupation or employment. In particular, telephony is an important career opportunity for blind people, 75% of which are unemployed; the expansion in telecommunication services means that this is an area of potential growth for employability, which should be encouraged, not curtailed by the increased presence on the marked of equipment that would neither be suitable not adaptable to their needs.

Your rapporteur considers that we should anticipate the Declaration 22 to Article 100a in the Amsterdam Treaty [2], which means that the needs of disabled people should be taken into account in the drawing up of harmonisation legislation at the EU level. Although the new Treaty is not yet in force, the inclusion of the declaration is a clear acceptance by Member States of the importance of maintaining special provisions and requirements to ensure equal access for disabled people in Single Market legislation. Your rapporteur therefore insists on making this consideration one of the essential requirements.

The major risk involved in this draft directive, however, is the co-existence of numerous incompatible equipments leading to a segmented market where competition would be hindered by the cost of changing supplier, and where innovative services would be proprietary - a similar threat being the dominance of company owning a de facto standard.

The only way to oppose this undesirable development resides in the promotion of open specifications. Official harmonized standards, when they are available, provide the best example of such tools. Your rapporteur is aware that, in a fast-moving environment such as telecoms the pace of the standardization process would hinder technological innovation if it were made a prior and compulsory requirement. Harmonized standards must therefore remain an option.

This does not mean however, that they should be regarded just as one among other specifications. Standards (and to a lesser extent, the so-called "Publicly available specifications"(PAS) approved by ETSI) should clearly be encouraged and promoted as a satisfactory solution for the community of users and the industry as a whole.

The amendments tabled to this end take account of the dual constraint of promoting standards while avoiding the discouragement of innovative solutions. The principle would be that the use of harmonized standards or PAS would provide the manufacturers who decide to use them an even simpler way of proving the compliance of their equipment, thus accelerating their ability to penetrate a market, and would protect them against the consequences of possible (albeit unlikely) shortcomings in the standards used.

Your rapporteur hopes that this moderate "push" might entice manufacturers to stick to open specifications, and operators to use compatible interfaces.

If this succeeds, it is not overoptimistic to expect from the new regime the best of both worlds : industrial dynamism and user choice together with security and services interoperability.

  • [1]  OJ L128, 23.5.1991, p. 1
  • [2]  Declaration regarding persons with a disability The Conference agrees that, in drawing up measures under Article 100a of the Treaty establishing the European Community, the institutions of the Community shall take account of the needs of persons with a disability.