Marina Ljubic-Karanovic, senior legal affairs expert in the Croatian Regulatory Authority for Network Industries (HAKOM), appeared in N1 to comment on A1’s decision to pull the N1 channel from its offer, as well as what that decision would mean for users.
Operators in general have the right to change the conditions of the use of its services, which includes changing the offer of channels within programme packages. However, they must notify their users of any changes in advance. The users then have 30 days from the day of receiving the notification to react, she said.
“As far as the change in content is concerned, that’s a specific issue and it affects different users in different ways, depending on their viewing habits. All users will not have an automatic right to terminate their contracts. However, depending on their viewing habits, some will have that right without having to pay penalties, under the condition of course that they had actually watched the channels in question, which will be determined on a case-by-case basis,” she said.
“Each user who is unhappy about this change can contact their operator and submit a complaint, saying the change has an effect on him, and give permission to the operator to look into whether the user had actually watched the channel regularly. If they had, and if that is the reason the user had signed the contract with the operator in the first place, then the operator must allow them to terminate the contract with no penalties,” Ljubic-Karanovic said.
Those users who do not manage to terminate their contract without paying additional fees have the procedure of resolving the complaint, and contacting HAKOM, which can resolve the case between operators and users, is the third step, she explained.
“The user is not losing any rights, they have to be notified. If the operator fails to notify users, then it will be sanctioned. As HAKOM, we are looking into this case. This is not the first time channels on offer have been changed, so we are collecting facts and looking into whether everything is in line with the law. For the user, it’s important that they had been notified,” she said.
“The operator has offered some other channels instead and every user must decide for themselves whether that is adequate or not. I assume the users will contact their operator first. What’s important is that the procedure is resolved in written communication. If the user does not get adequate answers over the phone, then they must send a written complaint so that there’s a paper trail,” Ljubic-Karanovic said.
She pointed out that HAKOM is not dealing with the questions of broadcasters, but they exist to resolve users’ complaints.
“HAKOM is here as a regulator for users who are using operators’ services. Programme content is not within our purview, we deal with users,” she explained.
She repeated that the 30-day deadline does not begin on the day the user has learned the news from the media, but on the day they receive the information personally.
“Usually it is sent as part of that month’s bill, or via email… The deadlines are written in the instructions… if there is any confusion, HAKOM’s website contains detailed instructions. For users, the procedure is free,” Ljubic-Karanovic said.
“Operators know their obligations, and they must behave accordingly. If they fail to do so, they suffer sanctions. As HAKOM, we are collecting facts. Some users had received the notification, some had not, some had received it separately. What’s important to us is that the users should not have to think about that, they only need to know that they have the right to act from the moment they had received the notification, she added.