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Criminal charges threat to Skype

Telecoms watchdog calls in prosecutor to investigate internet phone company - with threat of jail and €75,000 fine

INTERNET chat service Skype has been threatened with a criminal prosecution by French telecoms watchdog Arcep over its continued failure to register as a telecom operator.

Arcep has called on the Paris prosecutor to investigate the company as it says Skype “allows internet users in France to called landline and mobile numbers in France and around the world, using their computer or smartphone” and should comply with legal and fiscal requirements to do so.

The watchdog has been trying since 2007 to get Skype France – which is registered in Luxembourg – to register as a telecom operator because of its VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services and says that failure to do so “constitutes a criminal offence”.

If Skype registers it would have to comply with legal requirements that include offering emergency calls and collaborate with police and security services to set up wiretaps. It would also have to pay to use the telecoms infrastructure in France.

Failing to do so would make company officers liable to a year in jail and €75,000 fine.

Skype has 660 million users worldwide and is the No1 means for expats to keep in touch with families elsewhere using webcams.

The Arcep move also comes as France is putting pressure on Google and other internet giants over their tax regimes and the way that they collect and use data on users.

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