French regulators seeking investigation of Skype for not registering as telecom operator [Update]

French regulators are asking government prosecutors to investigate Skype, a Microsoft subsidiary, for failing to register as a telecommunications operator as required by French law.

According to a news release by ARCEP, France's telecommunications regulatory agency, Skype has been asked "to declare itself an electronic communications operator" several times, and Skype has not complied with the requests. As a telecommunications operator, Skype would be required to offer certain services, including routing emergency calls and implementing a way for "legal wiretapping" to be used.

Because Skype's service offers "French internet users with services that allow them to make phone calls to or from a device connected to the internet," such as a smartphone or computer, ARCEP claims it's required to register as a telecommunications operator in the country. Companies that fit the agency's definition of a telecommunications operator and don't register as such are making a criminal offense, the agency's news release claims.

Skype's failure to register as a telecommunications operator likely relates to the fact that it's not a traditional telephone service, but rather a voice-over-IP service. The regulatory agency claims that the company is still providing a telephone service, however.

ARCEP's request for investigation comes less than a week after another regulatory debacle for Microsoft, as the European Union fined the company $733 million on March 6 for not including a browser selection ballot in Windows 7's first service pack.

Neowin has contacted Microsoft seeking comment. This article will be updated if and when a response is received.

Update: A Microsoft representative has issued the following statement on behalf of Skype:

Skype is a globally known and used software app that seamlessly enables millions of people to communicate every day via their internet connection.  We have engaged with ARCEP in discussion over the last several months during which we shared our view that Skype is not a provider of electronic communications services under French law.  We will continue to work with ARCEP in a constructive fashion to seek agreement on a resolution that ensures people, wherever they are, can continue to rely on Skype as they do today.

Source: ARCEP via The New York Times

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22 Comments

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Just be fair and target every single application offers services similar to Skype. Wouldn't that make FaceTime, GoogleTalk and Facebook chat be in the same boat?

zeke009 said,
.....

No.

The problem with Skype that makes it unique to those other services is Skype-Out.
The ability to communicate with traditional telecommunications endpoints has the French believing that Skype should fall under telco law.

deadonthefloor said,

The problem with Skype that makes it unique to those other services is Skype-Out.

I can make calls out from google talk.

Hasn't Skype been around for a decade now? When was the start of this "several times" that this request was made?

Hahaha France.
And doesnt Skype have to register as a phone company to even be able to call to phone numbers from the internet? I thought this was similar within the entire EU and unlike America (where you can sent free texts and call numbers for free from the internet, hence why you pay for receiving texts and phonecalls -.-)

and 3.06 billion fine? I thought it was ~700million

Shadowzz said,

and 3.06 billion fine? I thought it was ~700million

3bil total over the times they have been fined. Article is wrong I believe.

Shadowzz said,
Hahaha France.
And doesnt Skype have to register as a phone company to even be able to call to phone numbers from the internet? I thought this was similar within the entire EU and unlike America (where you can sent free texts and call numbers for free from the internet, hence why you pay for receiving texts and phonecalls -.-)

and 3.06 billion fine? I thought it was ~700million

$3bn fine is all combined fines over the last decade.

wahoospa said,
Those European countries are only after the American dollar. Skype tell them to go to hell.

Why? Sounds like this was requested by Skype a long time ago. If Skype wants to be used all over, then it must comply to certain countries laws. If not, they will be fined.

wahoospa said,
Those European countries are only after the American dollar. Skype tell them to go to hell.

I suppose when the US Government fines European companies they're just after the Euro or Pound?

McKay said,

I suppose when the US Government fines European companies they're just after the Euro or Pound?

I didn't know Europe still had companies to fine....I keeed I keeeed.... we are in the same boat over here.

techbeck said,

Why? Sounds like this was requested by Skype a long time ago. If Skype wants to be used all over, then it must comply to certain countries laws. If not, they will be fined.

Except that Skype relies on the Internet, which means you need to have telecommunication in place before you can even use Skype. For example, your cell phone. Or home Internet.

wahoospa said,
Those European countries are only after the American dollar. Skype tell them to go to hell.

In turn Microsoft/Skype can go to hell when it looses half a billion potential clients who'll just switch to some other service. Respect and obey the laws of the foreign countries you're doing business in or get out. It's that simple.

"I didn't know Europe still had companies to fine...."

One European company has a 99% market share in smartphone processors. The other 1% is USA. Europe still has a telecoms industry. The USA doesn't (Lucent is French owned and Nortel went bust).

Pluto is a Planet said,

Except that Skype relies on the Internet, which means you need to have telecommunication in place before you can even use Skype. For example, your cell phone. Or home Internet.

1. TelecommuniCEPTION!!!

2. "Yo dawg EU, you want a telecommunications company in a telecommunications company..."