Telecoms Regulation in Bulgaria

Effectively advocating on behalf of telecom operators

Until recently the Bulgarian telecommunication industry was in poor shape. Its telecom termination rates were the highest in Europe despite the comparatively low average income in Bulgaria.
The Bulgarian telecom regulator, the Communications Regulation Commission (CRC), determined mobile termination rates in an arbitrary and disproportionate way. Vivacom, the former telecom monopolist, sought Alber & Geiger’s help in tackling the CRC. Its regulatory influence in Bulgaria was significant. The challenge was compounded by the limited availability of effective domestic tools to review potentially arbitrary or unfair decisions. Concurrently the firm had been tasked with addressing the problem of illegal cables in Bulgaria. The Commission’s position was that this issue ought to be handled solely at national level. However, the Bulgarian state had been very hands off with respect to the deteriorating situation of illegal cables.

Addressing national telecoms regulations through EU intervention

ag-wins-map-sofia-brusselsThe strategy adopted, intended to show how broad ranging Treaty obligations should be translated into government actions. It had a strong EU public law and policy element, with consumer protection at the forefront. It brought EU law into a practical abstraction to suggest how its underlying values might be manifested in the public decision-making in Bulgaria. It helped Bulgaria understand and implement its EU law obligations. It enhanced the notions of fairness and proportionality in the civic realm. It used sophisticated fact-finding and law and economics analysis, to outline where subsidiarity pointed to, regarding the illegal cables.

Meeting the objectives

Strategic and beneficial solutions
Bernard Moscheni- Chief Executive Officer, Vivacom
The outcome of this mandate was a significant improvement in Bulgarian telecommunications services. Alber & Geiger’s lobbying activity resulted in the European Commission asking CRC not to discriminate when setting the level of termination rates between fixed and mobile networks. CRC significantly lowered Bulgaria’s termination rates to the benefit of consumers. Equally the EU Commission came on board with us to address the issue of illegal cables. It eventually began exerting pressure on Bulgaria, demanding their immediate removal. A remarkable process of removals is now underway. Ultimately Vivacom has now been put in a position where it is better able to serve the public.