State governance in the telecoms sector is exercised by the Council of Ministers (ie, the government), the National Radio Frequencies Spectrum Council and the Ministry of Transport, Information Technologies and Communications. The Council of Ministers adopts and updates the State Policy in the Electronic Communications Sector and the State Policy on Planning and Allocation of Radio Frequency Spectrum. The latter is drafted by the National Radio Frequencies Spectrum Council, which also maintains the National Plan for Allocation of Radio Frequency Spectrum. The Ministry of Transport, Information Technologies and Communications has general oversight over the electronic communications and information society sectors, and its powers include, among others, preparing drafts of secondary legislation acts, representing the country in international organisations, etc.
In addition, broad sector-specific competence is vested with the CRC, which is an independent state agency and a separate legal entity. The CRC is a collective body, consisting of five members, including a chairman and a deputy chairman. The CRC chairman is appointed and released from office by the Council of Ministers. The deputy chairman and two of the members are appointed and released from office by parliament, and one CRC member is appointed and released from office by the president. The term of office for all members is five years, and a member may not serve for more than two consecutive terms of office.
The CRC has the power to regulate and monitor compliance of providers and provision of ECSs with the applicable law. Among other things, the CRC may and has to:
- determine the relevant markets of ECNs and ECSs subject to ex-ante regulation under the LEC;
- investigate, analyse and evaluate on a regular basis the level of competition on the relevant markets; and
- determine the undertakings with SMP and impose on them, amend or revoke specific obligations aiming to preserve or restore effective competition.
The CRC is also the authority competent to issue, amend, supplement, transfer, suspend, terminate or revoke permits for use of an individually allocated scarce resource. The CRC has the power to resolve disputes between undertakings providing electronic communication services and review claims submitted by end users in specific cases envisaged in the LEC. The CRC maintains mutual cooperation with the national regulatory authorities of other EU member states and with the European Commission in order to procure the development of consistent regulatory practices and implementation of EU law.
Another public authority with specific competence in the media sector is the CEM. It is an independent state agency and a separate legal entity, comprising five members: three appointed by the parliament and two by the president. The term of office of all CEM members is six years. The composition of the authority is renewed every two years within the parliament’s quota and every three years within the president’s quota. A member of the CEM may not serve for more than two terms of office, and such terms of office may not be consecutive.
The CEM is vested with the powers to regulate media services in Bulgaria. It is charged with the following tasks and competence:
- to supervise the activities of media service providers in compliance with the LRT;
- to issue opinions on draft legislative acts and international treaties in the media services sector;
- to award individual broadcasting licences to radio and TV broadcasters for national and regional programme services, which have the right to be distributed by an undertaking that has been granted an authorisation for the use of a radio frequency spectrum for provision of electronic communications over networks for DTB with national or regional scope; and
- to keep public registers of:
- radio and TV programme services that are distributed over cable ECNs, by satellite and over ECNs for DTB;
- radio and TV programme services that are distributed over existing or new ECNs for analogue terrestrial broadcasting;
- on-demand media services; and
- undertakings that distribute Bulgarian and foreign programme services, etc.
Finally, the CPC is also competent to intervene in the telecoms and media sectors in order to monitor compliance with the PCA. The PCA covers all business operations in all sectors of the economy and the presence of sector-specific regulatory requirements does not prevent its application. The PCA comprises the substantive rules on restrictive horizontal and vertical agreements, abuse of dominance and monopoly, merger control, sector inquiries, compliance review of legislation and administrative acts, and unfair trading practices. The PCA also constitutes the national competition authority - the CPC - and sets out the rules for antitrust investigations, merger control, sector inquiries, enforcement and imposition of penalties for breaches of competition regulations.
The principal responsibility for enforcement of the competition rules in Bulgaria falls to the CPC. The latter is an independent, specialised state agency, composed of a chairman, deputy-chairman and five ordinary members (a total of seven) elected by Parliament with a tenure of five years.
The CRC and the CPC must act in coordination and cooperation. Mergers and joint ventures in the telecoms and media sectors that meet the relevant national thresholds are reviewed separately by the CPC and the CRC, each applying its special statutes. In theory, the CRC should have exclusive jurisdiction to monitor compliance with the LEC and to regulate SMP, but in practice abuse of SMP may fall within the purview of the PCA and thus should be also investigated and sanctioned by the CPC.
There are some mechanisms aiming to ensure consistency in the application of the different regimes and to avoid conflict in the exercise of jurisdiction. First, there is a cooperation agreement between the CPC and CRC, whereunder the regulators inform one another of the draft decisions they intend to take and assist each other in the course of their investigations. Second, the LEC contains specific provisions regarding cooperation between the CRC and CPC, especially with respect to ex-ante market review. The CRC is obliged to consult the CPC when adopting a methodology for the terms and procedure of relevant markets definition, analysis and assessment, and criteria for designating undertakings with SMP (the currently effective version adopted by CRC Decision No. 2076 of 23 October 2012, promulgated in State Gazette No. 89 of 13 November 2012, in force as of 13 November 2012).
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