Tuesday, November 13, 2007

EC - reform proposals

The EU Telecoms Reform proposes a Single Market for 500 million consumers – Frequently Asked Questions

The EU Telecoms Reform package includes several specific measures that will strengthen consumer rights and their freedom to choose.

* Broadband internet access: The reform will tackle more efficiently the dominant telecoms operators' control of the broadband market. This will strengthen the right of consumers to choose and change their broadband provider, lead to better and faster broadband services, and to lower consumer prices. By making radio spectrum use more efficient, the reform will also ensure that those regions of Europe where it is uneconomic to build, say, a fibre optic network, can be connected via wireless broadband services.
* Number portability: The reform will make it easier for citizens to keep their telephone number when switching providers, and set a maximum of 24 hours for operators to 'move' their number to the new provider. Today, this porting of numbers between providers, takes on average about 8 days for fixed telephone numbers and about 5 days for mobile telephone numbers; the best countries for this are Malta (1 day), Germany, Austria, and Finland (3 days), while porting a fixed telephony number can still take up to 30 days in Estonia, and up to 20 days in Slovakia for mobile numbers. In future, the Commission will also be able to extend this consumer right to the possibility of porting subscriber's personal directories and to the portability of numbers between fixed and mobile networks.
* More transparency: Confronted with a wide range of telecoms services and products, consumers often have difficulties in deciding which one is best for them; 34% of EU consumers admit facing problems in comparing the offers of different providers, making it harder to take advantage of the best possible deals. The reform will force telecoms providers to provide all relevant information on prices and other conditions so that consumers can make informed choices before making a purchase.
* Access to freephone numbers from abroad: At present, it is not possible to access certain freephone or business service numbers when calling from one Member State to another. Today consumers on holidays, or people travelling for work can have a problem in accessing public administration contact points (e.g. for health and pension systems), or pre-sale/after sale services. The EU Telecoms Reform will guarantee that access to these numbers is granted from everywhere in the EU. If you have to pay for this access, you should be told clearly in advance.
* Connecting all citizens: About 15% of Europeans have a disability and by 2020 25% of the EU's population will be over 65. The reform will therefore ensure that people with disabilities, special needs and elderly people all get easier access to telecommunications services. For instance, access to emergency services via the European emergency number, 112, will be improved; and more TV channels will have subtitles, audio descriptions or sign language.
* Independent watchdogs: The EU Telecoms Reform will ensure that competition and consumer rights in national markets are ensured by watchdogs which are fully independent from operators and government alike. Too often, telecoms regulators are today close to the dominant operator that in many countries continues to be owned by the national government; government shares in telecoms incumbents are still 100% in Cyprus, Luxembourg and Slovenia, and considerable in many other EU countries. A close relationship between regulators, incumbents and governments can lead to ineffective regulation, national protectionism and delays in enforcing consumer rights. The EU Telecoms Reform therefore wants to strengthen the independence of national telecoms watchdogs to guarantee fair regulation in the interest of consumers.

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