Paris, 11th January 2012
ARCEP is publishing the findings of its second survey of the consumer services market in France, from 2006 to 2010, covering the customers of the country’s three mobile network operators, Orange, SFR and Bouygues Telecom, and its two largest virtual operators (MVNOs), NRJ Mobile and Omea Mobile (Virgin Mobile).
Methodology based on the concept of minimum expenditure
The minimum expenditure is the theoretical lowest price paid in current euros, including VAT, by an informed, free and rational consumer who optimises her spending according her consumption levels throughout the period in question. Variations in the amount spent can be attributed either to changes in consumption (volume) or to changes in the price of the services (price). Price index calculations are based on this notion, once the volume effect is neutralised.
Average price decrease of 3.4% and an average 12.9% rise in consumption in 2010
The minimum expenditure increased for the market as a whole (by an average of 4.1% a year during the period, and by 7.6% in 2010), which is due to an increase in consumption levels – particularly of SMS and the mobile internet. This increase is also especially high among the lightest consumers who are now switching to more expensive offers that include a higher number text messages and mobile internet access minutes.
The price of mobile services has decreased steadily throughout the period, however: by an average of 2.9% annually, or by a total 11.2% in four years, and accelerating to 3.4% in 2010.
The heaviest users are the prime beneficiaries of these price decreases (-12.4% in 2010) whereas more modest consumers saw a much smaller decrease in the price of their services (-2.3% for the smallest consumers and +0.3% for mid-level consumers).
Customers with prepaid contracts experienced a significant price hike in 2006 (+4.4%), but the series of decreases during the remainder of the period, and particularly the 1.9% drop in 2010, have almost fully offset this initial rise. The price of pay-as-you-go cards remained relatively unchanged between 2006 and 2010 – increasing by an average 0.1% a year.
The average actual phone bill has decreased steadily since 2008, and is nearing the level of the theoretical minimum expenditure
This convergence would appear to prove that consumers are choosing services that are more in line with their actual needs, notably thanks to measures recommended by the Authority for achieving greater transparency and a more liquid market. At the same time, operators have managed to develop and tailor their offers to changing consumption habits, which has allowed them to create a growth market. Customers benefit from this development through high-volume/unmetered offers that are becoming increasingly common thanks to the decreases in call termination charges ordered by ARCEP.
Publication which is due to evolve over time
ARCEP has expanded the scope of its survey compared to the previous edition, to ensure greater accuracy and to be more representative of changes in the marketplace. The two main MVNOs have been included in figures for 2008 onwards. Further changes will include a new definition of customer profiles in the next publication, which will also cover 2011 and is due to be released in the coming months.