Data boxes: apparently still voluntary for citizens, newly compulsory for entrepreneurs

On 2 December, the Chamber of Deputies approved a proposal to amend the Electronic Communications Act and Authorised Conversion of Documents, which will abandon the originally intended automatic setup of data boxes for individuals. The current legal regulation, under which an individual can set up a data box only based on a request, will remain in place.

Under the original regulation, the compulsory setup of data boxes is supposed to start on 1 January 2023, when the relevant provisions of the already valid Electronic Communications Act will come into effect. On its basis, a data box will be set up for every individual who demonstrates “information literacy”, i.e. a person who logs in to some electronic services of the state, for example, using a bank identity, eObčanka (eCitizen), through NIA ID or other means. The Parliament is currently discussing the abolition of this obligation.

In the past year, the automatic setup of data boxes has been widely discussed and even criticised by many. On 2 November, the government agreed on the proposed amendment, which abolishes the automatic setup of data boxes for individuals, and proposed its approval by the Chamber of Deputies in the first reading. All this in view of the fact that the amendment to be abolished was supposed to come into effect on 1 January 2023.  However, MPs disagreed with the approval of the act in the first reading in mid-November and decided to abolish the automatic introduction of data boxes only last Friday in the third reading.

The draft was then submitted to the Senate for approval. Senators can be expected to support it, as the Senate delayed the automatic setup of data boxes for individuals when approving the Electronic Communications Act and pushed for it to come into effect in January 2023. Now, less than a month remains until the original legislation comes into effect. However, whether the amendment will be approved in time and the obligation abolished remains a question.

Introduction of data boxes for entrepreneurs

On the other hand, the automatic introduction of data boxes for all individuals with entrepreneurial activities, which is to take place on 1 January 2023, has been retained. The change will affect all entities recorded in the register of persons, specifically two groups, namely entrepreneurial individuals and legal entities recorded in the register of persons, in particular associations, foundations and homeowners’ associations. In the first group, based on the Ministry of the Interior’s report, this change will affect approximately two million self-employed individuals who have a personal identification number. In the second group, about two hundred thousand legal entities will be affected.

The obligatory introduction of data boxes will affect a large number of individuals despite the amendment to the Act. The fact that many persons have long interrupted their activities and do not operate their business might pose a problem. Nonetheless, such persons will have a data box set up. If they do not want a data box, they will have to cancel their trade license.

However, the government ultimately decided only to abolish the regulation introducing the automatic setup of mailboxes for non-entrepreneurial individuals. In the explanatory memorandum, it explained its decision by the current social and economic situation, in which the setup of data boxes for non-entrepreneurial individuals would be too ambitious a step. Another argument was the impact of the change on vulnerable groups of the population who may not be sufficiently prepared for the consequences of using data boxes. Similar concerns have also been raised in the case of the setup of data boxes for entrepreneurial individuals, which has remained unchanged, in particular, for example, for small pensioner entrepreneurs.

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