Code of Practice for Internet Service Providers

1. Scope and Objective

This Code fulfils a requirement at law but the ultimate objective of the Code is the enhancement and maintenance of a high standard of ethical and professional practice within the ISP community, which shall make adoption of this Code a mark of quality.

The scope of this Code is to:

  1. Terminology and Interpretation

Authority’ means the Malta Communications Authority;

‘Code’ means this Code of Practice;

‘customer’ includes any present or prospective customer;

Service or services’ means online access to the Public Internet and associated services

‘Regulations’ means "The Internet and Other Data Networks (Service Providers) Regulations" (Legal Notice 170 of 1999 as amended by Legal Notice 223 of 2000).

3. Honesty in Trading

ISPs shall present themselves and their services honestly and shall not make false, misleading or exaggerated claims. They shall at all times make available to customers a clear, written statement of rates, description of service and conditions of contract.

3.1 ISPs shall at all times provide customers with sufficient information to enable them to make informed decisions;

3.2 Such information shall be clear, accurate, comprehensible, easily accessible and written in plain and intelligible language, avoiding use of technical terms wherever possible;

3.3 Information about terms and conditions of service shall be identified as such and clearly distinguished from advertising and marketing material;

    1. An ISP shall provide customers with at least the following information:

(a) its services and all the relative charges applicable, indicating any tax or levy which may be applicable at the time;

(b) the full name, permanent address of the place of trade or business, contact telephone numbers and e-mail address of the ISP;

(c) the method of calculation of applicable charges;

(d) where a fee is due on a regular basis, the frequency of its falling due;

(e) the terms and conditions of Service;

    1. instructions on connecting to, and making basic use of, the service;

(i) any other relevant information which may assist the customer in contacting the ISP.

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4. Standards of Service

ISPs shall publish and make available to customers a clear description of each service type offered together with the standards expected. They shall at all times maintain, and strive to improve, the stated levels of service.

4.1 ISPs shall ensure that their services meet any such minimum standards as may be established from time to time by law

4.2 ISPs shall give adequate notice to their customers of any planned interruptions of service, and at least one month’s notice to all customers prior to winding up of their operations.

4.3 ISPs shall maintain the following minimum standards of service:

    1. consistent and reliable access to the service;
    2. a help-line to deal with difficulties which customers may encounter when using their services, the availability of which should be clearly stated.
    3. overall accessibility to the service by customers of at least 99.5% of the time over the duration of a calendar year excepting circumstances outside the ISPs’ control or force majeure.
    4. if service redirection has been contracted for, redirection of service facilities for a reasonable time and at reasonable cost to customers changing to another ISP.

4.4 ISPs shall not discriminate unduly between persons or classes of persons in the provision of their services or any related matters and shall provide equal access to all customers.

4.5 ISPs shall not arbitrarily refuse or discontinue a service to customers unless authorised to do so by law, or where a customer is in breach of the law or the contract of service. Authorised refusal or discontinuance of a service shall be done in a fair and proportionate manner.

5. Fair Competition

Duty to act fairly.

5.1 ISPs shall compete in a fair and honest manner in conducting their business.

5.2 An ISP shall not discredit or disparage other ISPs in any manner whatsoever.

6. Legal and Responsible Trading

ISPs shall at all times abide by all applicable laws, their legal and contractual commitments with their customers and with this Code.

6.1 ISPs shall at all times ensure that their employees have a reasonable knowledge and understanding of, and comply with, the legislation applicable to ISPs as well as with this Code.

6.2 Nothing in this Code shall be interpreted so as to exonerate an ISP from any obligation arising under Maltese law.

6.3 ISPs shall co-operate with the competent authorities regarding any request by the latter for co-operation or assistance as entitled by law.

6.4 ISPs shall provide relevant information in relation to their subscriber base to the Authority on a regular basis.

7. Acceptable Use Policy

ISPs shall publish and adhere to an Acceptable Use Policy, which shall, in all cases be a condition of sale.

7.1 The Acceptable Use Policy is to include, as a minimum:

    1. Information to customers about their legal obligations and liabilities in making use of the services provided by the ISP;
    2. Information to customers about the responsibilities of the ISP in ensuring that customers adhere to their legal obligations;
    3. A statement of the remedial measures required to be taken by the ISP in respect of defaulting customers;
    4. A description of practices which are abusive and therefore prohibited;
    5. The limits of liability of the ISP in the provision of such information as may be contained in the Acceptable Use Policy.

8. Respect of Confidentiality

ISPs shall preserve the confidentiality of the proprietary information and communications of their customers and prohibit the improper access to and/or use of such information and communications.

8.1 ISPs shall respect the confidentiality of their customers and refrain from disclosing any proprietary information without the customer’s prior consent.

8.2 ISPs shall comply at all times with data protection legislation.

8.3 ISPs shall prohibit the improper access to and/or usage of the abovementioned information and communications.

8.4 ISPs shall equip themselves in such manner as to reasonably ensure the confidentiality of the information relative to their customers and their communications.

9. Unrestricted and open interconnection

ISPs undertake to adhere to the principle of unrestricted and open interconnection.

9.1 ISPs shall interconnect to other local ISP networks through a National Internet Exchange, as designated by the Authority and as per legal requirements, so as to ensure proper, functional and efficient communications between Internet users.

10. Dispute Resolution

ISPs shall strive to broaden the public understanding and enhance public confidence in the Members shall strive to broaden the public understanding and enhance public regard and confidence in the Internet Industry. Members shall endeavour to address any complaint and bring it to a fair and satisfactory resolution.

10.1 Members shall establish fair and effective internal procedures to address customer complaints. Customer complaints shall be addressed:

    1. Within a reasonable time;
    2. In a reasonable manner;
    3. Without prejudice to the customer’s right to resort to legal remedies.

10.2 Members shall provide customers with the procedural details of how to submit complaints and the time period within which the ISP shall respond.

10.3 Members shall endeavour to address any complaint to a fair and satisfactory resolution.

10.4 Complaints which are not amicably settled between the member and the customer may be lodged in writing to the Chairman, ISPSS, for resolution, subject to both parties being in agreement with the adoption of this course of action.

10.5 Upon receipt of a complaint the Chairman of the ISPSS shall attempt to broker a solution on an informal basis.

 

10.6 Should the attempt to broker an amicable solution fail, the Chairman shall convene a meeting of the Executive Committee to consider the full nature and extent of the complaint. The meeting shall be convened in the following circumstance:

 

10.7 Having considered the complaint the Executive Committee may exonerate or find against the member. In the latter case the Executive Committee may also recommend remedial action that is due to the customer. The customer shall be informed of the Executive Committee’s decision.

    1. Should any party still feel aggrieved by the outcome, the complaint may be addressed to the Authority according to law. However, if both parties accept the remedial action, this shall be considered as the final settlement arising out of this dispute.

    1. If the Executive Committee finds against a member, the matter shall be referred to the Ethics Committee of the Chamber of Commerce for the imposition of sanctions/penalties in terms of Rule 89 of the Statute of the Chamber

11. Illegal and Harmful Content

ISPs shall inform customers about safeguards against harmful content.

11.1 ISPs shall publish information about how customers may take adequate precautions to protect themselves from computer misuse and illegal and harmful content on the Internet.

11.2 ISPs shall publish adequate warnings to customers on virus attacks and threats of a similar nature of which they are sufficiently aware.

11.3 ISPs shall take such reasonable steps as are necessary to provide customers with information regarding supervision and control of minors’ access to Internet content, and the procedures which customers may implement to control this

11.4 The onus for implementing any such safeguards rests solely with the customer.

12. Obligation to Inform Customers about Adherence to Code

12.1 ISPs shall ensure that customers are informed of their adherence to the Code and will as a matter of course provide such information with any Internet service agreement made with a customer.

12.2 ISPs shall ensure that the Code is easily accessible to customers at all times. In this regard the ISP shall include a prominent link to the terms of this Code on the ISP’s homepage.