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Europe pushes for pan-EU business numbers

The European Commission has revived the idea of a Europe-wide phone number for businesses, a scheme first touted by the ITU a decade ago
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

The European Commission has launched a consultation on the idea of introducing a single Europe-wide phone number for businesses.

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The European Commission has launched a consultation on the introduction of pan-EU business numbers.

The consultation, launched on Monday, marks the revival of a plan that was first laid out a decade ago by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which in 2000 assigned the European Union the international access code +3883. The code was made available to 24 European countries but low take-up led to its abandonment. It will lapse at the end of this year.

"Today, businesses need to have a separate telephone number in every member state where their customers need to contact them," digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes said in a statement. "This makes it difficult to develop EU-wide services for their customers. I urge all interested parties to help us formulate a policy that addresses the needs of businesses and provides more convenient access for consumers."

According to Kroes, a pan-European number could help a business gain cross-border sales — one of her biggest focuses — and make it easier for consumers to access after-sales and customer enquiry services wherever they are in the EU.

The Commission's consultation, which will close on 28 February, 2011, asks questions about market fragmentation and demand, as well as about the possibilities for harmonising telephone numbers. There are two options that could work under EU telecoms legislation: proper promotion of the +3883 European Telephone Numbering Space (ETNS) — assuming it can be reactivated after the ITU lets it lapse on 31 December; or an EU-wide 'short number' that could be reserved for businesses.

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