Telephone calls with special rates. Restoring consumer confidence: implementation of short-term measures.

Paris, 17 July 2009

The Authority is submitting to public consultation its action plan aimed at recreating blocks of numbers for non-surcharged value-added services: numbers starting with 080 and 081 and short numbers associated with the same tariffs.

In a press release dated 7 May 2009, the Authority outlined the directions it planned to take in the area of value-added services (VAS), following the publication of the results of a report it had commissioned from the Committee for information technologies, CGTI (1) (Conseil général des technologies de l’information) in 2008 on the topic of VAS retail pricing and professional code of conduct.

Telephone calls to short, four-digit numbers starting with 1 or 3, or to ten-digit numbers starting with 08 allow consumers to connect to service platforms which can serve a range of functions: connect them with different departments in a company or an administration, provide practical information, sell them information or content, allow them to take part in a contest, etc. Calls to these numbers are billed at a special tariff which is chosen by the entity providing the service, and which differs from the rate applied to ordinary person-to-person calls, whether fixed (numbers starting with 01, 02, 03, 04, 05 or 09) or mobile (numbers currently starting with 06 and soon with 06 and 07). This is why they are referred to as calls to special services or value-added services.

Among these numbers, toll-free numbers – referred as "verts" (green) and starting with 080 – and "libre-appel" numbers starting with 081 are used by a host of businesses and administrations and called by a great many users, but do not follow a clear and comprehensible pricing scheme. In particular, calls to these numbers are often billed over and above limited or unlimited flat rates, and do therefore not meet their initial goal of having a single national number that would be billed at a lower price than a long-distance call.

The Authority therefore feels that there needs to be a reform of value-added services to make the tariff schedules applied to the blocks of numbers starting with 080 and 081 homogeneous, comprehensible and transparent, and allow the services to return to non-surcharged rates that satisfy the needs of the businesses and administrations that had originally chosen this type of number to allow callers to contact them at little cost.

On this matter, ARCEP fully supports the commitments made by the French Telecoms Federation (Fédération Française des Télécoms) on 9 June 2009 whereby "verts" numbers and numbers charged "at the price of a local call" will be included in mobile flat rates outside of unmetered calling periods as of 1 April 2009 and 1 January 2010, respectively.

The Authority nevertheless wants to bring more clarity in the national numbering plan to the tariffs applied to these numbers. To meet this goal, ARCEP is seeking feedback from the sector on several possible directions that could be taken to overhaul pricing for calls to numbers starting with 080 and 081, and short numbers with the same tariffs. To re-establish the principle of having the business or administration assume a portion of the cost of the call, the

  • that calls to numbers starting with 080 be free when called from a fixed network, and subject to ordinary pricing at the rate of a "normal or non-surcharged" call when called from a mobile network, i.e. deducted from the flat rates when they exist, as with any other national call;
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  • concerning calls to numbers starting with 081, two options are being considered: either a price decrease for calls to all numbers that apply the current level (2) of "azur" pricing, to a level that better reflects the productivity gains enjoyed by the electronic communications industry, or application of the principle of ordinary pricing at the rate of a "normal or non-surcharged" call originating a on fixed or mobile network.
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(1) In early 2009, the Conseil général des technologies de l'information (CGTI) became the Committee for industry, energy and technologies, Conseil général de l'industrie, de l'énergie et des technologies (CGIET). The report, "Value-added services: retail pricing and professional code of conduct" (Les services à valeur ajoutée: tarification de détail et déontologie) was submitted by Dominique Varenne in October 2008 (no. IV-2.2-2008). It is available for download from the ARCEP website.
(2) 7.8 eurocents per call + 2.8 eurocents a minute in peak calling hours, or 1.4 eurocents a minute in off-peak hours

Recreate an unequivocal distinction between surcharged and non-surcharged VAS numbers