The EU has agreed new data retention laws for telecomms operators and ISPs. Companies will now have to keep call data for a minimum of six months.

It also recommended that the maximum limit should be two years - although there are some countries, like Ireland and Italy, whose telcos are already obliged to keep data for longer. These will not have to reduce this period. The agreement also left the issue of the reimbursement of operators by governments as optional.

The deal was struck at a meeting of justice and home affairs ministers in Brussels. However, although this agreement was passed by a majority of the EU countries, the rules can still be overhauled by members of the European Parliament, which has taken a different line on this issue.

Members of the Parliament’s civil liberties committee voted on 24 November to limit the time period for storing data to 12 months while making it compulsory for national governments to reimburse companies for the cost of collecting and storing data.

A spokesman for the European ISP association EurISPA said that there is still a “great deal of uncertainty concerning important details of what ministers had agreed.” Richard Nash, secretary-general of EurISPA, highlighted questions about the obligations on companies.

The next key date on the issue is a vote in the European Parliament scheduled for 15-16 December.

The UK, the current president of the EU, is keen for an agreement on the issue before its term expires at the end of December.