Paris, December 22
The two dispute settlement decisions adopted by ARCEP are in line with the reforms to the retail value-added services (VAS) market, which will come into effect on 1 October 2015 (1). These two disputes, between the firms Prosodie and Bouygues Telecom on the one hand, and between Colt and Orange on the other, concerned the conditions for implementing these reforms in the wholesale market, for the three number categories listed in the reform: premium rate numbers (2), numbers with neutralised rates (3) and freephone numbers (4).
As concerns premium rate numbers, call recipient operators (5) Prosodie and Colt challenged the compensation rates (i.e. commission rates) listed for the wholesale products of call origination operators (6) Bouygues Telecom and Orange, coming into effect on 1 October 2015.
These call origination operators provide call recipient operators with a sales and commission service that consists of billing their customers for the calls made to the value-added services sold by the call recipient operator's client service providers, collecting the corresponding amounts, and paying back a portion to the call recipient operator.
Analysing the contributions the different parties make to providing value-added services, and the associated costs and investments, ARCEP underscored that call origination operators had contributed substantially to implementing the reforms which, among other things, will allow service providers to benefit from a newfound price flexibility. As a result, ARCEP considered it reasonable that these call origination operators increase their commission rates. However, after analysing the Orange and Bouygues Telecom products, the Authority concluded that the reasonable rate that could be applied to the highest prices could not exceed 25%. In the dispute settlement decision concerning Prosodie and Bouygues Telecom, it set:
- the reasonable maximum rate that could be applied to VAS calling charges of €0.15 to €0.20/min at 15%;
- the reasonable maximum rate that could be applied to VAS calling charges of €0.40 to 0.20/min at 20%.
For the remainder, ARCEP concluded that the unreasonable nature of the commission rates set by call origination operators - i.e. 15%, 20% and 25% depending on the applicable retail price - had not been demonstrated.
As concerns numbers with neutralised prices, which constitute a new category created by the reform, Colt challenged the fact of Orange billing a component according to the length of the call, for traffic on its fixed and mobile local loops to neutralised price numbers operated by Colt. Given that Orange is already being remunerated by its retail market customers for relaying calls to these numbers, ARCEP concluded that this operator had no grounds to bill for this service in the wholesale market.
Lastly, on the matter of freephone numbers, Colt had challenged the price of the call origination product supplied by Orange for traffic originating on its mobile network, going to short and special freephone numbers operated by Colt. ARCEP concluded that the request by Colt was unfounded, given that Colt did not provide any proof that this price was excessive.
To allow stakeholders to continue to implement the reforms in the wholesale and retail VAS markets, Bouygues Telecom and Orange have until 15 January 2015 to submit a new version of their offers that are coming into effect on 1 October 2015.
These decisions are published, subject to the secrets protected by law.
(1) This reform, whose aim is to re-establish consumer trust and to lay down the conditions that will help turn the tide on the VAS sector's decline, resulted in particular in:
- the adoption of a pricing model referred to as "C+S" which includes two components: the price of the call ("C") which is to be the same as the price of a call to a fixed line number, and the price of the service delivered by the provider ("S");
- making calls to VAS numbers which are currently free when calling from a fixed line, also free when calling from a mobile number.
(2) Numbers for which the price of the call (C) is neutralised, in other words it is the same as the price of a call made to fixed geographic and non geographic numbers, and the price of the service is strictly superior to 0.
(3) Numbers for which the price of the call (C) is neutralised, and the price of the service equals 0.
(4) Numbers for which the price of the call (C) and the price of the service equal 0.
(5) In other words the operator that supplies customers with the telephone service they use to reach the VAS provider.
(6) In other words the operator that supplies the VAS provider with the telephone service it employs to establish contact with its customers.
The decision n° 2014-0845-RDPI (118 218 Le Numéro vs Free SAS and Free Mobile) (pdf - 920 Ko)(in French only)
The decision n° 2014-1546-RDPI (Prosodie vs Bouygues Telecom) (in French only)
The decision n° 2014-1547-RDPI (Colt vs Orange) (in French only)