The French regulator has announced that it has informed the public prosecutor in Paris about Skype’s failure to declare itself as an operator.

ARCEP claims the OTT player has an obligation to declare itself as an electronic communications operator under Article L. 33-1 of the French Postal and electronic communications code.

In a statement, ARCEP said it has asked Skype to declare itself as an operator “several times” but the Microsoft-owned business has not done so, which therefore constitutes a criminal offence.

However, a Skype spokesperson told European Communications: "We have engaged with ARCEP in discussion over the last several months during which we shared our view that Skype is not a provider of electronic communications services under French law.  

"We will continue to work with ARCEP in a constructive fashion to seek agreement on a resolution that ensures people, wherever they are, can continue to rely on Skype as they do today," the spokesperson said.

While the regular said it recognised that not all of the solutions that Skype provides are electronic communications services, the fact that it provides a telephone service to the public “implies compliance with certain obligations, which include the routing of emergency calls and implementing the means required to perform legally ordered interceptions”.

Its statement continued: “In keeping with his responsibility to ensure that these essential provisions of France’s electronic communications law are upheld… the Chairman of ARCEP has apprised the Paris public prosecutor of these facts, which could be classified as a criminal offence.”

Informa Telecoms & Media analyst Francesco Radicati told European Communications that ARCEP's position was "a typical response to offers by a free/lower-cost rival: to stop them ‘taking customers’ without considering what drove those customers to use Skype in the first place".

He added: “It’s similar to the telcos in the Netherlands attempting to ban Skype and Whatsapp, which led the regulator to impose net neutrality.

“It’s hard to see what ARCEP hopes to accomplish by continuing with this line of inquiry – should a music-streaming service like Deezer be forced to declare itself as a radio station, or compete on the same terms as music chains like Fnac?”

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