||European Parliament elections 1999
Important points 1994-1999
FREE MARKET IN TELECOMMUNICATIONS
However, Parliament has also been determined to ensure that liberalisation does not take place at the expense of private users in general and disadvantaged groups in particular. It was the first to argue in favour of special measures to ensure that operators - old monopolies and new entrants alike - do not just court corporate clients while abandoning less profitable customers, such as those living in remote rural areas without services, or charging them exorbitant rates for services.
To achieve a proper balance between increased competition on the one hand and safeguarding consumers' rights on the other, Parliament successfully persuaded Council and Commission to introduce a requirement for Member States to ensure that all users have access to a basic set of quality services at a reasonable cost. This so-called universal service obligation sets out which services must be offered to everyone. In addition it contains special measures to protect disadvantaged groups, particularly people with low disposable incomes and disabled users, by offering social rates and flexible payment schemes.
Through the co-decision procedure, Parliament has thus managed to obtain guarantees that consumers will not lose out as a result of liberalisation. It will continue to monitor the development of the market to ensure that the universal service requirements are actually met and to adjust the obligations to reflect the development of new communication technologies.
Further information: Anders Gantén tel. (32-2) 284-6234 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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