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Is Tango's new tariff in breach of internet neutrality?

Is Tango's new tariff in breach of internet neutrality?

by Catarina Osório, translated by Adam Walder 3 min. 11.12.2018 From our online archive
Mobile operator Tango's new 'Infinity' tariff may be in breach of internet neutrality legislation says European watchdog
Tango headquarters in Bertrange Photo: Gerry Huberty
Tango headquarters in Bertrange Photo: Gerry Huberty

The Luxembourg Institute of Regulation (ILR) has stated that it is investigating mobile telephone operator Tango over its new Infinity tariff packages as the offers may be in breach of European internet neutrality legislation.

A month ago Luxembourg Times' sister publication Contacto was approached by a Tango user querying the legality of the operator's new tariff scheme that favours some services and apps more than others.

Contacto then asked for the opinion of the European Consumers' Organisation (BEUC) who indicated that the offer could be in breach of European internet neutrality legislation and therefore warranted investigation.

Specifically Tango's Infinity subscription packages offer unlimited traffic for a certain number of applications and a limit of two gigabytes of traffic to other applications and services.

Within these tariffs - depending on which one is subscribed to - Share (€20 a month), Listen (€25 per month) and Watch (€38 per month), unlimited traffic includes apps such as WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, YouTube, Netflix or Amazon Prime. The tariff also includes two Tango applications, including one for TV. Everything else has limited traffic of two gigabytes per month.

The Tango Infinity package offers
The Tango Infinity package offers

In an email sent to Contacto a few days ago, BEUC believed that the Luxembourg regulator ILR should investigate the tariff in question.

Asked to comment on BEUC's opinion, Tango did not wish to comment.

The Luxembourg operator said it could not confirm that the investigation was related to internet neutrality, but stated that the conclusions would be made public soon.

At the end of November Tango was questioned about the possibility that the tariff was not complying with the European regulation on net neutrality. In response, the company stated that net neutrality was taken into account when creating the product.

Likewise, Tango says that it was based on "the uses of the group of consumers in question, and practices of companies competing in the sector".

According to the operator, Infinity is not a tariff for the masses but for a group of customers that have a "specific way of using smartphones: massive use of social networks, streaming video and music, fewer calls and text messages".

"The operator is acting as the entity that controls access and discriminates between applications within the same category, and this may be against the rules. The national regulator should analyse this," stated David Martin of BEUC in an email.

However, the specialist in digital law also points out that the general outlines of European regulation on internet neutrality "are not sufficiently clear as to what is prohibited or not in zero-rating."

Zero-rating is providing access to the internet at no additional financial cost under certain conditions, for example, allowing unlimited access to certain sites, such as the Infinity service.

The practice is often associated with the debate over internet neutrality, because it is against the principle of neutrality. In this way, BEUC says that in most cases "everything depends on the interpretation of the law by the regulators of each country, which is done on a case-by-case basis."

The body defends the ban on any practice related to zero-rating, since it is "harmful to consumers". In addition to a "compromise of freedom of choice" and "prevents competition" between companies.

Referring to the zero-rating, Tango argues that the Infinity tariff offers "the best of two worlds: unlimited use of what really interests users, while giving them the freedom to use any other applications to choose from consumers ".

The investigation continues.

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