EU-wide phone number could ring up savings

A single Europe-wide phone number for doing business between 27 member states could help companies cut costs and boost efficiency, the European Commission said this week.

A single Europe-wide phone number for doing business between 27 member states could help companies cut costs and boost efficiency, the European Commission said this week.

A public consultation has been launched this week seeking submissions from firms, consumers and phone operators on their views about the potential benefits or pitfalls of a system which would allow businesses to have the same telephone number in all EU countries.

Speaking from Brussels, Irish MEP Jim Higgins said a single EU phone number would help businesses offering cross-border sales and services, and also improve the provision of after-sales and customer queries, regardless of where the customer was based.

"Currently a business operating anywhere in the Republic must advertise two numbers should they wish to attract customers from, for example, the North or the UK, and there is a significant cost for small businesses in this," said the Fine Gael MEP.

"The lack of common EU-wide phone numbers is hampering the economies of scale we could enjoy by developing the EU single market and at the same time strengthening our all-island economy," he added.

At present, phone numbers in all member states are looked after national authorities, but under EU rules, a Europe-wide three-digit prefix could be introduced and reserved for businesses.

The public consultation runs until the end of February, 2011.