Communications Regulation (Amendment) Act 2007

16.

Insertion into Principal Act of new Part 6.

16.— The Principal Act is amended by inserting the following Part after section 58:

“PART 6

Emergency Call Answering Service (ECAS)

Interpretation: Part 6.

58A.— In this Part—

‘ECAS’ means an emergency call answering service operated under a contract entered into under section 58B;

‘ECAS contract’ means a contract for the operation of an emergency call handling service;

‘ECAS operator’ means the person who operates an emergency call answering service in accordance with a contract entered into under section 58B;

‘emergency call’ means an electronic communication (such as a telephone call) that is forwarded from an undertaking to the ECAS operator for onward transmission to an emergency service, and includes a call that may not be a genuine one;

‘emergency service’ means the Garda Síochána, a fire brigade, ambulance service, the Irish Coast Guard or a civil emergency service.

Power of Minister to enter into contract for the operation of emergency call answering service (ECAS).

58B.— (1) The Minister may enter into a contract with a person under which the person undertakes to operate an emergency call answering service for a specified period. The contract shall specify terms and conditions for the effective operation of the service and, in particular, shall—

( a) specify the maximum call handling fee that the operator is permitted to charge during the first 2 years of the operation of the contract, and

( b) specify that the Commission can increase or reduce the amount of that fee after conducting a review in accordance with section 58D.

(2) On entering into a contract with a person for the operation of the service, the Minister shall, by notice published in Iris Oifigiúil, designate the person as its operator.

(3) While the contract remains in force, the ECAS operator shall provide such information as the Minister or Commission requires to enable the Minister or Commission to perform their respective functions under this or any other enactment.

(4) The Minister may terminate a contract entered into under this section without paying compensation if it is proved that the ECAS operator has failed or is failing to comply with a term or condition of the contract or a requirement imposed under this section.

(5) The Minister may from time to time vary a contract entered into under this section, but, subject to section 58D, only with the consent of the ECAS operator.

Payment of ECAS call handling fees.

58C.— (1) An entity that forwards emergency calls to the ECAS operator during a month shall, within 45 days after the end of that month, pay to that operator the call handling fees charged by that operator for emergency calls forwarded by the entity during that month.

(2) The maximum amount that the ECAS operator may charge for forwarding an emergency call is—

( a) during the first 2 years of the ECAS contract, the amount specified in that contract, and

( b) during the remainder of the period for which that contract is in force, the amount determined by the Commission under section 58D.

(3) If a call handling fee is not paid by the deadline fixed for payment, the ECAS operator may, by proceedings brought in a court of competent jurisdiction, recover the amount of the fee as a debt due to that operator.

(4) A call handling fee is payable in respect of an emergency call even if the call is not forwarded to the emergency service concerned.

Commission to conduct review of maximum call handling fee.

58D.— (1) Not later than 2 months before the second anniversary of the date on which an ECAS contract was entered into, and not later than 2 months before each subsequent anniversary of that date while the contract remains in force, the Commission shall conduct a review of the maximum permitted call handling fee that the ECAS operator can charge for handling emergency calls.

(2) As soon as practicable after conducting a review in accordance with subsection (1), the Commission shall determine the maximum call handling fee that the ECAS operator can charge for handling emergency calls during the period of 12 months beginning with the date of the relevant anniversary of the date on which the ECAS contract was entered into. In determining that fee, the Commission may either confirm the existing maximum call handling fee or, after consulting the ECAS operator, determine a higher or lower maximum fee.

(3) In making a determination under subsection (2), the Commission shall have regard to—

( a) the need for the ECAS operator to cover the reasonable costs likely to be incurred by it in operating the service and, in particular, to recover a guaranteed rate of return for providing the ECAS, and

( b) the cost likely to be incurred by the Commission in monitoring the ECAS.

ECAS operator to pay reasonable costs of Commission in monitoring service.

58E.— (1) The ECAS operator shall pay to the Commission such amount as the Commission certifies in writing as being the amount it has reasonably incurred in monitoring the operation of the ECAS during a specified period.

(2) The ECAS operator shall pay such an amount by such date, or within such period, as the Commission specifies in the certificate or separately notifies in writing to that operator.

(3) If an amount payable under this section is not paid by the deadline fixed for payment, the Commission may, by proceedings brought in a court of competent jurisdiction, recover the amount as a debt due to the Commission.

ECAS operator not liable for certain actions done in good faith.

58F.— An ECAS operator is not liable in damages to any person for any act done or omitted to be done in the course of operating the ECAS unless it is established that the act was done or omitted in bad faith or with gross negligence.

Commission to report to Minister on operation of service.

58G.— The Commission shall provide the Minister with a report concerning the operation of the ECAS at such times, or within such periods, as the Minister specifies in writing to the Commission. If an event occurs with respect to the operation of the ECAS and the Commission considers that the Minister should be made aware of the event, the Commission shall provide the Minister with a report on the event.

Interim measure pending the Minister entering into contract under section 58B.

58H.— (1) In this section―

‘call handling fee’ means a fee fixed under subsection (2), and includes that amount as varied under that subsection;

‘current operator’, in relation to the emergency call answering service operating at the commencement of this section, means Eircom plc;

‘payment period’ means the period beginning with the date on which an order made under subsection (2) takes effect and ending with―

( a) the date (as publicly notified by the Minister) on which a contract entered into under section 58B becomes fully effective, or

( b) the day that falls 18 months after the date on which the order takes effect, or such extended period as the Minister may allow,

whichever first occurs.

(2) The Commission may, by notice published in the Iris Oifigiúil, fix the amount of the call handling fee payable under subsection (5), and may from time to time, by similar order, vary the amount of that fee. In fixing the amount of the fee, the Commission shall take into account the need to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of the operator of the service.

(3) An order made under subsection (2) ceases to have effect at the end of the payment period.

(4) Before making an order under subsection (2) (including an order varying the call handling fee), the Commission shall convene one or more meetings to which it must invite all undertakings that carry on business in the State and such users of electronic communications services as it thinks appropriate.

(5) During the payment period, each entity that forwards emergency calls to the current operator during a month or part of a month that falls during that period, shall, within 45 days after the end of that month, pay to that operator for each of those calls a call fee fixed in accordance with subsection (2).

(6) If call handling fees are not paid by the deadline fixed for payment, the current operator may, by proceedings brought in a court of competent jurisdiction, recover as a debt due to that operator any amount of fees that remain outstanding.

(7) A call handling fee is payable in respect of an emergency call even if the call is not forwarded to the emergency service concerned.

(8) To enable the Minister to award and enter into an ECAS contract, the current operator shall, so far as it is able to do so, provide the Minister with such co-operation and assistance as the Minister reasonably requires in writing.

(9) If it appears to the Minister that the current operator is failing to provide the level of co-operation and assistance required under subsection (8), the Minister may apply to the High Court to make a compliance order under subsection (12). Such an application is to be by motion.

(10) The High Court may hear the application only if it is satisfied that a copy of the application has been served on the current operator. On being served with such a copy, the current operator becomes the respondent to the application.

(11) The High Court may make such interim or interlocutory order as it considers appropriate pending determination of an application made under subsection (9). The Court may not refuse interim or interlocutory relief merely because the Minister may not suffer damage if relief were not granted pending determination of the application.

(12) On the hearing of an application made under subsection (9), the High Court may make an order requiring the current operator to comply with the relevant requirements or may refuse the application.

(13) If the High Court makes an order under subsection (12), it may make such ancillary orders as it considers appropriate.”.