Metered telephone usage is crippling Europe's potential to catch up with the US in the ecommerce race, a new study reveals.
In addition, according to the report from Jupiter Communications, the growing trend by Internet service providers (ISPs) to provide 'free' Internet access is not boosting the number of consumers going online.
Jupiter said consumers are still nervous of large telephone bills, as there is no flat rate Internet access available.
"Telephone usage is metered and that alone will continue to hold back the growth of online advertising, content, and ecommerce ventures in Europe by inhibiting Internet usage," said Phil Dwyer, managing director at Jupiter Communications Europe.
The report maintains that Europe is sitting on an ecommerce goldmine. Jupiter forecasts that Internet connected households in western Europe will increase from 14 million at the end of 1998 to 47 million by 2003.
A large number of ISPs have followed the lead of Dixons Freeserve, which now boasts more than a million customers, by enticing consumers with 'free' Internet access. This basically means they do not pay a subscription fee. Some ISPs, like Tempo's Screaming.Net, are offering free offpeak access, but it means switching your telecoms provider.
There are already pressure groups forming in Europe in a bid to get telecoms providers to adopt flat rate calls. The largest is being led by Telecom.eu.org, which is pushing for a flat rate for Internet access in Europe.
Source: VNU Newswire
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