7th May 2009 press release: Appendix 2 – Medium-term measures
Next, structural measures will be established with economic stakeholders to allow this value chain to develop.
In addition to defining a clear category of non-surcharged numbers, the way in which surcharged numbers are billed to users needs to be reviewed. The CGTI report recommends implementing a rate where the price of the call ("C") is distinguished from the price of the service ("S") provided by the VAS number. Referred to as "C+S", this pricing system makes it possible to take account of the different calling tariffs charged by operators, and to guarantee a uniform price for the service itself, which would be easier for the content provider to communicate.
For the consumer, this change would mean greater clarity on VAS prices, with information expressed by a formula such as: "price of a normal call + 0.50 eurocents/minute". This structure is similar to the one used by the SMS+ association for surcharged text messages.
The success of this new pricing structure nevertheless depends on having the "call" portion of the price being standardised at the rate of a regular call by all fixed and mobile operators. Implementing such a change requires that revisions be made to existing agreements between players along the VAS value chain, and must be carried out in concert with all of the stakeholders (consumers, operators, service providers and public authorities) within a reasonable timeframe.
A change in the pricing structure needs to be accompanied by price transparency measures:
Because these measures are part of operators’ and content providers’ commercial policies, it is crucial that they be involved in their definition and implementation, as a part of a multilateral effort.
The entity responsible for ensuring that VAS comply with rules of professional conduct will need to adapt these rules quickly to new services such as micropayment services and fraud prevention. Among its responsibilities, above all this entity will need to ensure the honesty of the services being offered via surcharged numbers, checking that the service or content is actually being delivered and verifying the prices being charged.
This entity will also need to ensure the implementation of a clear and understandable organisation of VAS by defining the legitimate uses of this billing chain. It will also need to determine categories of services and/or implement access control mechanisms for some of them. This organisation could make it possible for users to activate parental control systems that make it possible to block certain services – either because of their price, as is already the case for certain types of prepaid accounts with no overage, or their nature, notably adult and gambling services.
And, finally, the authority responsible for monitoring compliances with the rules of conduct will need to define the methods to employ that will enable it to monitor and impose penalties on VAS numbers that violate these rules, such as the definition of mandatory contractual clauses for players in the VAS chain which include compliance with the rules defined by the authority.
Finally, the modernisation of VAS and their future development depend on the improvements made to the services offered to businesses. On this matter, the CGTI report recommends the introduction of number-based tariffs and dynamic pricing during the call. These two measures would allow enterprises to develop their services, either by changing the price without changing the number, or by changing the pricing according to the actions performed during the call.
These measures nevertheless require major alterations to operators’ networks and need to be put into place in tandem with them. In particular, if dynamic pricing is already being applied by some operators using current switched technology, it is preferable to plan on designing this feature for an IP environment.
ARCEP would thus like to see service providers, content providers and operators establish a roadmap for developing new services for businesses in the coming years. Among the Authority’s efforts will be a study on the types of service that enterprises provide via VAS numbers.