Paris, 9 March 2007
Value-added services (VAS), called "special services", are services accessible via ten-digit numbers beginning with 08 (except for 087), four-digit numbers beginning with 3 or 1, and numbers beginning with 118 used for directory services. They provide access to all types of services: pre-recorded information (such as weather forecasts), or personalised information (information, ticket sales, administrative services, etc.), as well as access to dial-up Internet.
From 26 November 2006 to 12 January 2007, ARCEP conducted an extensive public consultation on the functioning of the VAS sector. It received close to 40 contributions from operators (originating operators, collection operators and service providers) as well as content editors, professional associations, consumer associations and consumers themselves.
After considering all of these contributions, ARCEP can now:
- notify a symmetrical draft decision aiming to impose accessibility obligations on operators which are present at both ends of the value chain and which control access to caller or callee end users; a new public consultation is already underway;
- publish a summary document of the contributions received and the planned actions to improve consumer protection.
Last, responses to last November’s public consultation are published in respect of corporate secrecy.
- A draft decision to clarify relations between players on the value chain
ARCEP is notifying a draft decision to the European Commission today which takes into account these various contributions. It aims to enclose and clarify the relations between operators and guarantee better interoperability between VAS using a number of the national numbering plan. Therefore, it is neutral as concerns contractual relations between operators and consumers. Two types of obligations are planned:
- an obligation imposed on operators present at both ends of the value chain (i.e. originating operators and users of VAS numbers), to grant reasonable requests for access to VAS numbers under objective, transparent and non-discriminatory conditions, without prejudice to a cut-off or suspension right in case of fraud or default of ethical rules
- an obligation imposed on originating operators to grant reasonable invoicing, collection or repayment requests of part of the amounts invoiced to users, under objective and non-discriminatory conditions.
These obligations cover all operators, both fixed and mobile, regardless of market power, and therefore constitute a symmetrical regulation measure. 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 "service interoperability". In that the objective of these obligations is to stipulate the access and interconnection conditions, they are also covered by the authorisation procedure of the electronic communications minister under Article L. 36-6 of the CPCE.
It is for this reason that before adopting the obligations it is proposing, ARCEP is required to hold a public consultation, notify its draft measures to the European Commission and to the other European regulators and submit its decision to the Minister for approval.
- The summary document of contributions received and actions planned by ARCEP
This document presents a summary of the contributions received to the abovementioned public consultation and the actions planned by ARCEP to answer them. It includes several areas of consideration which aim to improve consumer trust in the VAS sector as concerns ethics, transparency and pricing clarity.
- First, almost all contributors requested, like ARCEP, the existence, first, of a body responsible for monitoring ethics and uses of VAS, and second, of ethical rules. This is why it is urgent that an end be put to the current vacuum in order to allow players to act within an established legal framework when they are faced with indelicate services or uses.
- Second, other than the areas of reflection expressed by ARCEP concerning the harmonisation of price levels, players made many suggestions on how to improve the functioning of this sector and consumer trust:
. In terms of ethical control, some are in favour of establishing a content classification or creating specific levels in the national numbering plan in order to be able to propose targeted offers to consumers
. As for improving clarity and pricing transparency, some are in favour of creating colour codes for the entire sector or of requiring that VAS prices be communicated at the start of the call or of restructuring the national numbering plan in order to cover so-called risky services.
In order to continue the debate on these subjects and to examine ways of improving price clarity and transparency to the benefit of consumers, ARCEP will be creating an ad hoc working group representing all members on the VAS value chain (operators, content publishers and consumers).
The documents mentioned in this press release are available for consultation and downloading :
The draft decision notified to the European Commission [Decision no. 2007-0213 (pdf) (pdf - 313 Ko)]
The summary document of contributions and planned actions to improve the functioning of the VAS sector and consumer trust
The summary document of contributions and planned actions following the public consultation conducted from 26 November 2006 to 12 January 2007 (pdf (pdf - 257 Ko))
The public contributions sent to the public consultation launched in November 2006 (zip - 6,2 Mo (zip - 6.21 Mo))
Responses to this public consultation on the draft decision must be received by 10 April 2007.