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EU Telecoms Commissioner calls for consumer right to change phone operator in 1 day

European Commission - MEMO/09/126   23/03/2009

Other available languages: none

MEMO/09/126

Brussels, 23 March 2009

EU Telecoms Commissioner calls for consumer right to change phone operator in 1 day

In a video message posted this morning on her website, Viviane Reding, the EU's Telecoms Commissioner, calls on the European Parliament and the Council of EU Telecoms Ministers to be ambitious in the coming days as they enter the final negotiations on a new set of EU rules strengthening competition and consumer rights in a single market for telecoms like mobile phone services and internet connections. While consumers in all 27 Member States currently have the right to change their (fixed and mobile) phone operator while keeping their number, at the moment not everyone can expect it to happen in one day, and some face a wait of two to three weeks, reducing the impact of this important right on competition and consumer choice. On average across the EU, it takes 8.5 days for a mobile number and 7.5 days for a fixed number to be ported.

"Europe should be ambitious when it comes to empowering our consumers," says Commissioner Reding in her video message. "Because empowered consumers are the best recipe for strong competition on the market, investment into attractive services and, at the end, lower prices for all."

Reding stresses the benefits of the common European rule (in place since 2003) that allows consumers to switch mobile or fixed operator while keeping their phone number. "This right to switch operator puts pressure on the telecoms companies to offer the most competitive deals so that they can either find new customers or keep their existing ones", says the EU's Telecoms Commissioner in her video message. Almost 24 million fixed and 60.2 million mobile numbers have been moved by consumers thanks to this rule since the introduction of the rule on number portability.

"There is however a problem: In some European countries, it still takes very long for your mobile phone number to be really transferred to your new operator. You are very lucky if you are an Irish or Maltese consumer, because in these countries, you can do this within one day only. However, Polish and Italian consumers, I'm afraid to say, are not so fortunate. It takes 38 days to take your mobile phone number to a different operator in Poland, and 15 days in Italy."

"This is an intolerable situation. It distorts competition between operators in Europe's borderless single market and puts citizens in countries with less effective consumer rules at a disadvantage."

"I want all Europeans to be able to switch their phone operator – whether mobile or fixed – within one single day, as it is already the case in Ireland and in Malta."

A rule that would allow consumers in all 27 EU countries to switch operator in one single day was proposed by the Commission in November 2007 and is currently under discussion in the European Parliament and in the Council of Ministers.

"In these times of economic crisis, Europe should ask itself what we can do to empower our consumers in the telecoms markets to strengthen fair competition and the purchasing power of our citizens. And how we can do this fast," concludes Reding in her video message.

Background:

On Tuesday, 24 March, there will be a final round of negotiations between representatives of the European Parliament, of the Council and of the Commission to reach a deal on the Commission's proposal for a new EU Regulation to reduce consumer charges for SMS and data roaming (see IP/08/1386, MEMO/08/745 and MEMO/09/102) and on the Commission's proposal for a reform of the way how telecoms markets are regulated in Europe (see IP/07/1677, MEMO/08/491, MEMO/08/551, MEMO/08/552, MEMO/08/581, MEMO/08/744, IP/08/1661).

On Wednesday, 25 March, Commissioner Reding will present the Commission's latest report on the state of competition and consumer benefits on Europe's single telecoms market at a press conference in Brussels at 11:30.

Commissioner Reding's video message can be watched at:

http://ec.europa.eu/commission_barroso/reding/video/index_en.htm

Annex:

Mobile number portability

(= consumers switching the mobile operator while being able to keep their number, as required by EU law)

[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]

Mobile number portability – days required to port number


[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]

Fixed number portability

(= consumers switching the fixed operator while being able to keep their number, as required by EU law)

[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]

Fixed number portability – days required to port number

[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]


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