New rules for the telecommunications industry that were originally set out by the European Commission two years ago have finally come into full effect, granting citizens significant new rights over the length of their phone contract, personal data and provider of choice.

All EU citizens, regardless of what country they are in, now have the right to change their provider in a single day. The law applies to both landline and mobile phone contracts, and means that the user must be able to keep their existing number when moving to a new provider.

“So you can shop around and pick the best deal for you, and switch over without lots of inconvenience and interruption,” Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission said in a blog post earlier today.

To make it even easier for users to move to a different phone provider, the European Commission has also banned operators from binding customers onto a contract that has a minimum duration of three years.

The new maximum duration that can be advertised by providers – at least until the user’s first renewal – has now been reduced to 24 months.

“Operators must also offer customers the possibility of a contract with a maximum duration of twelve months, if the customer so desires,” the original ruling from May 2011 reads.

The idea here is to stop users from being pressured into a long-term contract – or simply signed onto one unknowingly – that they did not want or cannot afford. If the service given by the provider is not up to scratch, it also gives EU citizens a chance to switch their phone provider sooner rather than later.

The last major change to EU telecoms rules relates to personal data. It means that whenever the user’s personal data is held by a phone provider and breached, they are now obligated to tell the user.

Kroes added in her blog post that should would prefer this rule to be extended to a much wider range of sectors – not just telecoms companies.

If you’re living in Europe, some of these measures might not feel all that new or groundbreaking to you. That’s because over the last two years, individual governments have been introducing the new rights into their respective national law.

The last few governments have finally confirmed to the EU Commission, however, that the rights have now been implemented, meaning that for the first time the new rights really do affect all EU citizens.

Image Credit: ALEXANDER KLEIN/AFP/GettyImages