How could a Europe-wide phone number for businesses enhance internal market

As highlighted by the Digital Agenda for Europe, the existence of an EU wide telephone number  could help business to operate in all Member states, therefore contributing to consolidate the single market of the European Union, one of the priorities of the European Commission. In order to gather opinions from interested parties, the European Commission has launched a public consultation asking  businesses, consumers, telecoms operators and public authorities on the real benefits of such measure.

Today, businesses need to have a separate telephone number in every Member State so their customers can contact them in each particular national market, something which makes it difficult to develop EU-wide services for their customers. In order to tackle this difficulty, Commission believes that an EU wide phone number could help European businesses to offer cross-border sales more easily and facilitate access to after-sales and customer enquiry services irrespective of the Member State where the customer is situated.

The obligation of EU-wide companies to rely on different national or non-geographic "business" numbers, such as 0800-numbers in each Member State in which they operate, leads to extra costs for businesses and consumers and hampers the development of the EU's Single Market. Often, non-geographic numbers in one Member State are not reachable from other Member States, which in general terms makes that there is no EU-wide number available for businesses wanting to be reachable across borders. Giving a solution to these problems is one of objectives put forward by the Digital Agenda for Europe.

For that purpose, the public Consultation on the future harmonisation of numbering resources for the provision of business services open by the European Commission asks some questions about market fragmentation as well as the possible ways to harmonise telephone numbers, market demands for the future, and management of the numbers.

Respondents are invited to send their views on the numbering policy that would best contribute to the development of the Single Market by 28 February 2011. The Commission will analyse the responses to the consultation and will then take a decision outlining the most appropriate approaches to the numbering policy to enhance the Single Market.