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Parliament urges clarification on users' telecommunications rights -as prices drop

The European Parliament has approved a proposal, with amendments, on an electronic communications network and services designed to give greater protection to users. The directive forms part of a 'telecommunications package' which is designed to foster greater competition in t...

The European Parliament has approved a proposal, with amendments, on an electronic communications network and services designed to give greater protection to users. The directive forms part of a 'telecommunications package' which is designed to foster greater competition in the telecommunications market. Amendments made by Parliament to the European Commission's original proposal include a call for a minimum set of high quality services, which are safeguarded, transparent and do not distort market competition. There are also amendments designed to provide better guarantees for disabled users, those with special needs and those on low incomes. Another innovation is the request that national regulatory authorities publish regular transparent information on pricing, including details on trends. Security of information also needs to be guaranteed by service providers. Parliament feels that this will help to create greater ease of access to the Internet for users. Shortly after its approval of the proposal on 13 June, a new survey was published showing that some European countries have telecommunications prices comparable to the USA, but others are still lagging behind. The six country survey, by UK telecommunications watchdog OFTEL, found that unlimited access to the Internet costs an average of £18 (around 29 euro) in the UK and less than the £19 (around 31 euro) in California. However, the other European countries in the survey, Germany, France and Sweden did not fare so well. Germany's equivalent price was £39 (around 63 euro) and neither Sweden nor France offered unlimited access. In the part of the survey dealing with mobile phone prices, prices were generally cheaper in Europe than in the USA, where there is lower penetration. The cheapest mobile phone offers in Europe in the survey were from the UK and France. The UK offered the lowest rates for occasional users (less than 40 minutes a month) with an average cost of £12 (around 19 euro) a month. France offered the cheapest offers for high use mobile phone users, with an average of £89 (around 144 euro) a month.