With electronic communications underpinning every aspect of life in today’s world, in Cyprus it is hard to overestimate the role of the Office of Electronic Communications & Postal Regulations (OCECPR/ΓΕΡΗΕΤ). Successful Business met with Commissioner George Michaelides, to discuss the situation on and the regulation of the local telecommunication market.
With the digitalisation of the service sector in Cyprus increasing, how have the Office’s priorities changed?
In general, we are working on three pillars: protecting consumers, enhancing competition, and enlarging the electronic communication market by increasing and promoting investment in this sector. It is clear that to have networks to support digitalisation, we need substantial investment. Speaking of digitalisation, the first thing that comes to my mind is the installation of fibre-optic cables throughout Cyprus and the implementation of 5G. When we are talking about investments in FTTH (Fiber to the Home), we are talking about the amount exceeding €120 million. It is a lot of money but there are a lot of associated benefits, such as much higher speeds, more reliability to the network, and new services.
You have mentioned the consumer protection as one of the OCECPR’s pillars. What does this include in your case?
We are responsible for the quality of services. If the provider doesn’t offer the expected quality or the consumer doesn’t feel they get what they pay for, then consumers have a right to ask us for help. The process is the following. If the consumer is not satisfied with the service provider, they should first try and find a solution with the provider directly. In most cases, the issue would be resolved at this stage. If not, however, then the consumer should collect all the data and file a complaint through our office. We will have to review the information and contact the service provider, so it might take some time until we make a decision. If we conclude that the complaint is valid, we will ask the provider to find a solution for the consumer’s issue. If it involves a violation of law, besides the solution the service provider will have to pay a fine. Also, there are cases which require the legislation to be changed to avoid similar complaints in the future.
How can one contact your Office?
It can be done in person, by email, or by fax. Our website is in Greek, but the complaint form is available in English. To download the form and file a complaint, on the website one should click the ‘Complaints’ button in the upper left-hand corner of the main menu. We are revising the whole website, so that eventually all the content is available in English as well.
In Cyprus, what is being done to ensure fair competition in the telecommunication field?
What we do here in Cyprus is not different from what is being done in other EU countries. We analyse the market to see if there is any provider that has significant market power, more than 50%. The analysis will show whether any regulations should be applied to this provider to allow for fair competition on the market. 15 years ago, back when there was only CyTA, no one could start a telecommunication business unless you regulated the provider, which is CyTA in this example. For instance, you enforce them to allow other parties to use their network. Building such a network costs a lot of money, so by regulation you order them to do that for a specific price.
What changes can we expect in the nearest future?
In terms of the market, we already have four providers in the landline and mobile segments, which is good for a small place like Cyprus. In terms of technology, I believe the real changes will come with 5G. One might compare the significance of this change with that of when smartphones appeared in our lives. No one could have imagined that it would be possible to access the Internet, pay your bills, order food, shop online, or make video calls through your smartphone.
There is another organisation working under your Office, the Digital Security Authority. Could you tell us about it?
The DSA is a new organisation under our Office. It was created in line with the EU directive and its main responsibility is to protect critical information infrastructures. For example, there are organisations like the Electricity Authority of Cyprus, whose cease of operations would cause major problems for citizens and/or the economy. The DSA ensures that these organisations have at least a minimum level of security.
Speaking of security, it is known that cyber-attacks have been on the rise. Are we in danger? What should the citizens do to protect themselves?
We have to understand that smartphones bring many benefits but also risks. As long as you are connected, you are in danger of getting attacked by a hacker. Citizens should always think twice before they open an email, or an attachment from an unknown sender, and it is a must to have secure passwords and an antivirus system installed.
Is there anything you would like to say to the Russian-speaking community in Cyprus?
We are here to offer our services to everyone who resides in this country. The Russian-speaking residents are most welcome to apply to our offices following the procedure described above. I would also like to encourage them to use technology, but do it safely.
Office of Electronic Communications & Postal Regulations
12 Iliopoleios Str., 1101 Nicosia
Tel. +357 22693000
Fax +357 22693070