venerdì, ottobre 07, 2005

Give Me a Bell Sometime.

Browsing through the various news feeds the other day, I came across an item about the new EU website aimed at encouraging the various mobile telephone service suppliers across Europe to take a little look at their pricing strategies. Living, as I do, in one of Europe’s most expensive countries with regard telephone services (as with electricity – but that’s another story) I was immediately interested.

Of course, we already know that mobile phone service suppliers are in business to make money – but there is a bit of a difference between an honest profit and profiteering, surely. Leastways, that is what Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media was pointedly referring to when she launched the website this Tuesday. She said that she
considered “Only a well-informed consumer is a well-armed consumer” at the launch in Brussels, going on to add that “It is not normal that we have such differences in Europe", which is surely a bit of an understatement, considering the vast differences in charges, often by the same multi-national companies, that are imposed on us here.

Viviane Reding

Some examples shown include, for example, the cost of making a phone call from Italy with a UK mobile phone back to the UK – which is up to €5.81 for a 4 minute call. The same call from the UK with an Italian mobile phone to an Italian number is a mere €4.00 for the same 4 minutes.

The stated objective of the EU in starting this particular initiative is to bring call cost across
Europe more in line with each other by making the costs of moblie calls across Europe very much more transparent than they are at the moment. The figures, such as have been collated so far, make for interesting reading. I must admit though that I was surprised at the consistent charges across the Italian phone companies – as well as the very wide divergence in costs both to and from the UK.

Will it do any good though?
Dominique Forest from the European Consumers' Organisation - who produce a very interesting Mobile Phone Survey in PDF format - thinks not. He says; “Overall, the commission's initiative is positive, but the actual content of its website is quite limited", which he considers is only a half-way solution to the problem. Still, half-way is better than nowhere, and is a start. Perhaps what he really was referring to was the fact that so few telephone companies through the EU had bothered to respond to the request for information from the Commissioner though – surely a cause for concern. M. Forest went on to say that "The commission assumes that it must be very easy for consumers to get accurate data and then decide and switch to different operators, but in practise it is much more complicated", even though they haven’t been able to get much information themselves yet – not that I could blame the Greeks for keeping their phone call charges secret, as you will know if you have ever had reason to use your phone whilst in Greece. The least said, the better – obviously.