Phone subscriber's data consent valid for all member states: EU Court
(LUXEMBOURG) - A telephone subscriber's consent to having their personal data published in one EU Member State makes it valid for another, the European Court of Justice declared in a ruling on Wednesday.
The EU Court's ruling concerned a Belgian directory enquiries company European Directory Assistance (EDA) offering directory enquiry services accessible in Belgium. It made a request to firms which assign phone numbers in the Netherlands (namely, Tele2, Ziggo and Vodafone Libertel) to make available data relating to their subscribers, relying on an obligation provided for under Dutch law, which is itself a transposition of the European Universal Service Directive.
The firms refused, believing they were not required to do so for a company established in another Member State.
The College van Beroep voor het bedrijfsleven (Administrative Court of Appeal for Trade and Industry, Netherlands) referred some questions to the European Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling - i.e. is a firm required to make data relating to its subscribers available to a provider of directory enquiry services and directories established in another Member State,; and also whether the subscribers had a choice as to whether or not to give their consent depending on the country in which the undertaking requesting that data provides its services.
In its judgment, the EU Court declared, first, that the Universal Service Directive covers also all requests made by an undertaking established in an EU Member State other than that in which the undertakings which assign telephone numbers to subscribers are established.
That provision also requires the information to be made available "in a non-discriminatory manner". There is therefore no distinction according to whether the request is made. This, says the Court, is compatible with the objective pursued by the directive - that of ensuring, in particular, the availability throughout the EU of good quality publicly available services through effective competition and choice.
Refusal to make data relating to subscribers available to persons requesting that information on the sole ground that they are established in another Member State is incompatible with the principle of non-discrimination, says the Court.
As regards whether it is necessary to leave the subscribers with the choice whether or not to give their consent depending on the country in which the undertaking requesting that data provides its services, the Court referred to its previous case-law.
Where a subscriber has been informed by the undertaking which assigned him a telephone number of the possibility that his personal data may be passed to a third-party undertaking, with a view to being published in a public directory, and he has consented to that publication, renewed consent is not needed from the subscriber at issue for the passing of the same data to another undertaking, if it is guaranteed that the data in question will not be used for purposes other than those for which the data were collected with a view to their first publication.
In those circumstances, the passing of the same data to another undertaking intending to publish a public directory without renewed consent having been obtained from that subscriber is not capable of substantively impairing the right to protection of personal data, as recognised by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
The EU Court also noted that, regardless of where they are established in the EU, directory enquiry firms operate within a highly harmonised regulatory framework making it possible to ensure throughout the EU the same respect for requirements relating to the protection of subscribers' personal data.
Consequently, says the Court, it is not necessary for the undertaking assigning telephone numbers to its subscribers to differentiate in the request for consent addressed to the subscriber according to the Member State to which the data concerning him could be sent.