The European Court of Justice ruled Thursday that most taxes imposed on mobile phone masts are legal. The case involves the Belgian communes of Fleron and Schaerbeek, who imposed taxes on masts to the dismay of Belgian mobile phone companies Belgacom SA and Mobistar SA. The court ruled the taxes follow a 1997 telecommunications directive – provided they do not privilege one operator above another. The Belgian court still must determine whether the taxes do not discriminate.
Wireless operators such as Telekom Austria AG (TKA) and Deutsche Telekom AG’s (DT) Austrian unit are closely following the case. The province of Lower Austria is set to tax mobile phone masts from Jan. 1, 2006. A group called the Citizen’s Initiative of Mobile Phone Customers, through its Web site www.mobilfunkkunden.at, have protested the tax.
Both E.U. Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding and Austrian Deputy Chancellor and Infrastructure Minister Hubert Gorbach have come out against the proposed tax in recent weeks.
And yet, the two Belgian communes imposed a tax of about EUR3,000 per mast. Mobile phone companies argued that the tax contradicts an E.U. law deregulating telecommunications infrastructure. The communes argued that the deregulation did not refer to financial measures, only to governments imposing technical restrictions.