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The government wants WhatsApp, Telegram and other messaging apps to pay the operator fee



The government wants WhatsApp, Telegram and other messaging apps to pay the operator fee


The government has just presented the Draft General Telecommunications Law, one of the first measures for the Spain Digital 2020-2025 project. There are a number of new features regarding the telecoms law of 2014 and one of the most striking is that instant messaging services, such as WhatsApp, Telegram, etc., are now considered operators and, therefore, will have to pay the corresponding fee.

The draft, whose public hearing will be left open for a month to make observations on the text, is somewhat confusing because there are many points to be clarified, such as how WhatsApp or Telegram are going to pay an operator fee when these apps do not generate profits.

A somewhat confusing blueprint

The draft law considers courier services as operators, which are divided into several types. On the one hand, Internet service providers (Vodafone, Movistar …), the interpersonal communication providers, divided in turn into numbered and unnumbered (WhatsApp, Telegram …) and signal transport services or interconnection between operators.

According to Roberto Sánchez, Secretary of State for Telecommunications and Digital Infrastructures, WhatsApp and Telegram have “changed the way we consume communications services.” That these services become considered operators means that they have to pay the rate contemplated in Law 9/2014. It establishes the following:

“Every operator will be obliged to pay the General State Administration and its public bodies an annual rate that may not exceed 1 per thousand of its gross operating income and that it will be destined to defray the expenses that are generated, including those of management, control and execution, by the application of the legal regime established in the Law 9/2014, of May 9, General of Telecommunications “.

This is exactly what the government is asking for, that these services have to register as operators and pay one euro for every thousand euros that they invoice in Spain if said turnover exceeds one million euros. There are thus two confusing points: the first, that applications such as WhatsApp or Telegram do not generate income; the second, even more confusing, how much they are taxed in Spain. The case of WhatsApp is paradoxical, because WhatsApp belongs to Facebook, but the government has insisted that the fee is paid based on what WhatsApp bills, not Facebook.

WhatsApp will have to pay one euro for every thousand euros that it bills in Spain

Where does WhatsApp’s communications revenue come from? The government responds that “when we analyze its presentation of results to be able to apply the rate, we will see. That today a service is free does not mean that it will continue to be, I want to remember that WhatsApp has not always been free.” Regarding this presentation of results, Facebook would have to “file an income statement” of WhatsApp in Spain, Apple of iMessage in Spain, Telegram of Telegram in Spain, Microsoft of Skype in Spain, etc.

The same applies to services such as email, which “have always been considered operators”, as well as companies such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, which are also classified as operators and “from the moment they are registered they have to file an income statement for your telecommunications business. If it exceeds one million euros, they will have to pay one for every thousand. “At the moment it does not have the data of how many operators will be affected by this new regulation.

More news in portability and user rights

Leaving aside the new consideration of messaging apps, among the novelties contemplated in this draft law is a first set of measures to reinforce the user’s position with the provider. These include more transparent and readable contracts, tools that facilitate the comparison of offers, contracts of maximum 24 months, regulations of service packages and accessibility to contracts and other services.

With regard to portability, the ability to unlock the mobile card is contemplated, keep prepaid balance and keep the number for a month after closing the contract. There have also been words for 112, which can now use the location of the mobile to geolocate the caller, not just the antennas.

From the Secretary of State for Telecommunications and Digital Infrastructures they hope to be able to take this law to parliament early next year and that it is “approved in the second quarter of 2021 with the possibility of reaching the third trimester “.

More information | Draft Telecommunications Law (PDF)