Paris, 11 May 2007
ARCEP’s decision on value-added services stipulating the legal framework for relations between operators has just been approved by the Minister. It is part of ARCEP’s overreaching work on the operation of the VAS market, which will continue with the re-examination of France Telecom’s obligations.
ARCEP reaffirms the urgency to re-establish the bodies responsible for the respect of deontological rules for the content of value-added services. It will also continue its action for consumer protection in order to improve the transparency and clarity of call tariffs to VAS.
ARCEP has just completed the first stage of its analysis of the functioning of the value-added services market. Following two successive public consultations, ARCEP adopted a first decision which clarifies a certain number of operating rules for the relations between the operators present on the value-added services market.
- Clarifying relations between operators on the value chain
ARCEP recently adopted a decision—which today received Minister approval—bearing on the obligations imposed on the operators controlling access to the end user for the routing of calls to value-added services. It aims to regulate and clarify the relations between operators and to guarantee better interoperability of value-added services using a number from the national numbering plan. Therefore, it is neutral with respect to contractual relations between operators and consumers. Two types of obligations are planned:
- an obligation imposed on operators present at each end of the value chain (i.e. the "originating" operators and the users of the VAS numbers), to grant reasonable requests for access to value-added services numbers under objective, transparent and non-discriminatory conditions, without prejudice to a cut-off or suspension right in case of fraud or non-respect of the rules of conduct regulating the provision of content
- an obligation imposed on "originating" operators to grant reasonable requests to repay part of the amounts paid to users under objective and non-discriminatory conditions
Under the first of these obligations, and regarding more particularly automatic call-back mechanisms to public pay phones, ARCEP considers that any request to open VAS numbers supporting such mechanisms can be considered to be unreasonable by the originating public pay phone operator.
These obligations concern all operators, both fixed and mobile, irrespective of market power, and constitute "symmetrical" regulation. They are based on articles L. 34-8 III and D. 99-11 of the Post and Electronic Communications Code (CPCE) by virtue of which ARCEP may impose obligations on operators which "control access to end users" in order to "ensure [...] access provided to services on other networks" and "interoperability of services".
ARCEP will launch a second stage of the analysis on the basis of article L. 37-2 of the Code which aims to re-examine the "asymmetrical" obligations specific to France Telecom, whose unique position on the telephony market requires an in-depth re-examination, with regard to the symmetrical regulation currently in force.
- Consumer protection
During the course of public consultations, ARCEP has reviewed on several occasions the importance of making market players more responsible for the nature of the content of VAS.
It explained the fundamental role of the Conseil supérieur de la télématique in dispute settlement, and of the Comité de la télématique anonyme (CST-CTA) in the definition and control of business conduct recommendations, and explained how important it is that these bodies persist and that it is necessary to update the recommendations given the evolution of value-added services.
ARCEP believes that it is urgent to re-launch this business conduct control, as do many players, as expressed in public consultations.
Finally, ARCEP repeats its intention to establish soon an ad hoc working group on the means of improving pricing clarity and transparency to consumers’ benefit, which will include all the players present on the value chain of value-added services (operators, content publishers and consumer associations).