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KPN is to adjust its policy regarding unwanted anonymous phone calls

03-10-2019

Dutch telecom operator KPN must adjust its policy regarding unwanted or harassing anonymous phone calls. This has been one of the conclusions of the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) in a dispute between KPN and rival operator Robin Mobile.

Robin Mobile does not agree with KPN’s policy when investigating unwanted or harassing anonymous phone calls from KPN’s customers to Robin Mobile’s customers. If a Robin Mobile customer complains about an anonymous caller that is a KPN customer, KPN must launch an investigation into the complaint. In the course of the investigation, KPN warns the anonymous caller, providing the phone number of the one who is called.

ACM has now ruled that KPN must always launch an investigation into unwanted or harassing calls. However, under the Dutch Telecommunications Act, KPN is not authorized to provide the anonymous caller with the phone number of the one who is called. Furthermore, KPN cannot confine itself to simply referring to the Do-Not-Call-Me Register if it turns out that the calls are made by a call center. In such cases, KPN must continue with and finish the process, as KPN would do with calls made by individuals.

Background of the complaint

A set of guidelines has been laid down in the Dutch Telecommunications Act for telecom operators on how to act in case of unwanted or harassing anonymous phone calls. They are to refer to these guidelines when a customer of a telecom operator uses an anonymous number to make unwanted or harassing phone calls to a customer of another telecom operator. The latter customer has the option of filing a request with its own telecom operator to request the phone number and other personal information of the anonymous caller (including their name and their full address). The telecom operator will launch an investigation into the phone calls before deciding whether or not to provide this information.

Complaint

Robin Mobile’s complaint concerns three elements of KPN’s practices when investigating unwanted or harassing calls, which are:

  • In its investigations, KPN warns the anonymous caller, providing the phone number of the one who receives the unwanted calls or who feels harassed (the complainant). Robin Mobile does not consent to this disclosure.
  • KPN refuses to cooperate with the investigation as long as Robin Mobile does not give KPN its consent to provide the anonymous caller with the complainant’s phone number.
  • If the unwanted or harassing calls originate from a call center, KPN informs the complainant of this finding, and also informs them of the option to enter their number in the Do-Not-Call-Me Register. KPN will then close the complaint. Robin Mobile considers this practice to be insufficient.

ACM’s ruling

ACM rules that, under the Dutch Telecommunications Act, KPN is not authorized to provide the anonymous caller with the complainant’s number. It should also be noted that ACM is not authorized to rule whether or not the provision of the complainant’s full phone number to the anonymous caller is permitted under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). That legal question falls under the jurisdiction of the Dutch Data Protection Authority.

See also

03-10-2019 Decision in the dispute between KPN and Robin Mobile regarding Section 11.11 of the Dutch Telecommunications Act (Tw).