Consumers are being excluded from the benefits of telecomms liberalisation because they cannot oppose price hikes.
This is the claim from the Bureau Europeen des Unions de Consommateurs (BEUC), in a new study that also argues that EC member states are failing to set criteria for minimum service.
"Our research has shown that in many countries, consumers are now having to pay significantly more for the main items which make up their telephone bills than they did two years ago, namely local calls, subscription rates and rental charges," BEUC said in a statement.
EU legislation requires services to be 'affordable' but leaves it to member states to define this term, which many have failed to adequately do, and the European Commission should set guidelines, BEUC said.
On quality standards, EU legislation again leaves it to member states to set minimum targets and there are significant differences in quality levels.
The BEUC wants the Commission to define 'affordability' and 'quality targets' when it proposes revisions to telecomms legislation next year, it said.
Of the 15 EU member states, 12 include the principle of affordability in their national legislation, but the UK, Ireland and Greece do not.
Of the six states including spcific criteria, only Denmark defines affordability in terms of consumer needs while Austria, Belgium, France, Germany and Portugal base this on operators' needs.
On quality targets, only France, Ireland and the UK have included all 10 quality indicators required under EU directives in their national legislation.
Prices for local calls have gone up in Belgium, Portugal, the Netherlands and Sweden while rental rates are up in Denmark, Italy, France, Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg, Portugal, Finland and UK.
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