Skype in hot water in France after failing to register

France's telecommunications monitor Arcep said Tuesday it had asked prosecutors to launch a probe into Microsoft subsidiary Skype for failing to register as a telecommunications firm despite several reminders.

Under French law, a telecommunications operator does not need administrative authorisation but only has to make a "prior declaration," Arcep said. However failure to comply with the law is a criminal offence.

Arcep said it had asked Skype to declare itself "an electronic communications operator" but it had failed to do so.

An Arcep statement said Skype should register as a telecommunications service as it provided "French Internet users with services that allow them to make phone calls to or from a device connected to the Internet... in France or elsewhere in the world."

As a regular telecoms service provider, Skype would have to undertake certain obligations, including routing emergency calls and allow legal wire-tapping.

"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," the company told AFP.

"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 latest move comes at a bad time for Microsoft. The European Union fined Microsoft 561 million euros ($730 million) earlier this month for failing to provide customers with a choice of Internet browser, as promised.

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