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Digital Agenda: Commission launches consultation on a single Europe-wide phone number for EU businesses
In a public consultation launched this week, the European Commission is asking businesses, consumers, telecoms operators and public authorities whether they see benefits in a system that would allow businesses to use the same telephone number in all EU Member States.
EU-wide phone numbers could reinforce the EU's Single Market, as outlined by the Digital Agenda for Europe (see IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200).
An EU wide phone number could help European businesses to offer cross-border sales more easily and facilitate access to after-sales and customer enquiry services irrespective of the Member State where the customer is situated.
The consultation will help the Commission assess market demand for European business phone numbers and, if necessary, formulate initiatives for the introduction of such numbers. The consultation will run until 28 February 2011.
Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda, said: "Today, businesses need to have a separate telephone number in every Member State where their customers need to contact them. This makes it difficult to develop EU-wide services for their customers. I urge all interested parties to help us formulate a policy that addresses the needs of businesses and provides more convenient access for consumers."
Currently there is no EU-wide number available for businesses wanting to be reachable across borders. Instead, companies need to rely on different national or non-geographic "business" numbers, such as 0800-numbers in each Member State in which they operate.
This leads to extra costs for businesses and consumers and hampers the development of the EU's Single Market. Often, non-geographic numbers in one Member State are not reachable from other Member States.
The Commission consultation asks questions on market fragmentation, possible ways to harmonise telephone numbers, market demands for the future and management of the numbers. Respondents are invited to send their views on the numbering policy that would best contribute to the development of the Single Market by 28 February 2011.
The Commission will analyse the responses to the consultation and will then take a decision outlining the most appropriate approaches to the numbering policy to enhance the Single Market.
Telephone numbers in the EU are administered nationally by the national regulatory authorities, which allocate numbers in accordance with their national numbering plans. Consequently, national numbering assignment schemes predominate in the EU.
Under EU telecoms rules, there are two possible approaches to enhance harmonised numbering for businesses. One option could be introducing an EU-wide short number (e.g. starting with 115) which could be reserved for businesses. These numbers are short and easy to remember and would provide a single identifier for a company throughout Europe.
Another route would be to introduce measures to promote the take-up of a European telephone access code (+3883) under the European Telephone Numbering Space (ETNS). Businesses telephone numbers could consist of the +3883 code plus a telephone number which would remain the same in all Member States.
An attempt was made in 2000 by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to introduce a European single numbering space. Under this scheme, a code - +3883 - was assigned to 24 European countries in order to develop a European telephony numbering space (ETNS).
The objective of the ETNS was to promote pan-European services by making numbers available in circumstances where neither national nor global numbers were suitable or available. It was meant to allow pan-European companies, organisations and individuals to facilitate Europe-wide access to their services, but is due to lapse on 31st December.
The consultation document is available at: