EU publishes code of online rights

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EU publishes code of online rights

ISPs and users given clear expectations.


The European Commission has published a Code of Online Rights to educate citizens on their fundamental rights when connecting to the internet.

The Code of EU Online Rights does not introduce new laws, but rather summarises and explains in plain language the rights codified in existing laws universal to EU jurisdictions.

The rights broadly cover access, privacy, consumer rights, and conflict resolution.

The rights state that all European citizens should expect a ‘universal service’ of good quality, accessible fixed communications at a reasonable price for data (internet browsing) and voice calls.

Access must also be “open” and “neutral”. Users should have their choice of applications and services. Members states should only ban applications or services when “appropriate, proportionate and necessary within a democratic society”, such as acting on content that might “seriously impair [the] physical, mental and moral development” of minors or incite hatred based on race, sex, religion or nationality.

EU citizens are also granted a right to online privacy insofar as they should be informed of the purpose of any data collected and stored about them; that they can request copies of this data; and that certain information cannot be stored:

“Personal data revealing racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade-union membership, and the processing of data concerning health or sex life is only permitted with explicit consent of the individual, where allowed by national legislation.”

Individuals have the right to secure communications (such as e-mail), to be informed when their browsing is tracked and to be notified by their ISP should their private data be exposed.

When buying goods and services online, European citizens are entitles to information on the product, price, delivery costs, identifying information on the trader, and minimum contracts for service plans, among others.

These rights are particularly involving when considering the entering of a contract for provision of an online service.

The Code of Online Rights also explores an EU citizen’s right to sue or be sued during disputes over online services, and details what processes citizens can call on when in dispute with an online service provider based in non-EU countries.

The full list of rights has been published on the EC web site.

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