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OPTA Annual Report for 2007: Dutch consumers benefit from competition in the electronic communication markets

In its 2007 Market Monitor the Commission of OPTA, the Dutch Independent Post and Telecommunications Authority, notes that consumer prices for electronic communication services have fallen further. More consumers are telephoning more often via the Internet or cable. This is also being expressed in a further increase in bundled communications services. The Netherlands is amongst those leading the world in terms of mobile phone and broadband connections. Spam sent from the Netherlands remains at a low ebb, while the country fell from fourth to tenth international spot in 2007, when it comes to hosting unwanted software. In the same year OPTA handed out its first fine for the distribution of spyware, amounting to EUR 1 million. The telecommunications watchdog reveals this today in its annual report for 2007.

Market Monitor trends in 2007

The established trends of consolidation and convergence have persisted in the past year. This may be seen, amongst other things, in the merger of the cable companies, @home, Casema and Multikabel, to create Zesko (or Ziggo), the acquisition of Tiscali by KPN and of Orange by T-Mobile. The 2007 Market Monitor reveals that at present, one in every three Dutch consumers makes telephone calls through the Internet compared with one in four in 2006. The number of mobile phone connections rose to almost 19 million in 2007, bringing the number of connections per capita in the Netherlands to the equivalent of more than 115%. This is one of the highest penetration rates in the world. The Netherlands is also amongst the world’s leaders in terms of broadband penetration. The number of connections has surpassed 5.5 million. This means that 74% of all Dutch households had broadband Internet access in 2007. Bundled packages remain popular: sales of bundles surged by 20% in 2007.

Consumer benefits

For more than ten years now OPTA has ensured that competition prevails in the telecommunications market in the interests of consumers. Partly thanks to this competition and to convergence, new services have been developed and existing ones have boomed, well-known examples being broadband Internet access, Internet telephony and digital television. Almost 40% of viewers watches TV digitally. Dutch consumers are the major winners. If you compare prices over the past five years, mobile phone calls have become almost half as cheap as they once were. Broadband Internet access (via DSL or cable) has become 5.5 to 6 times more affordable. Fixed telephone calls have declined by 10% for the average caller during this period. A conservative estimate of the savings achieved for consumers in the Netherlands as a result of intervention in relation to the roaming tariffs for mobile phone calls in Europe produces a figure of EUR 37.5 million in the last quarter of 2007.

Business segment lags behind

“Although consumers now have a choice when it comes to the procurement of Internet and telephone services, I do not yet see sufficient dynamics in the business segment,” says OPTA Chairman, Chris Fonteijn. “Next year OPTA will examine whether extra attention needs to be devoted to this segment in order to ensure that business customers derive as many benefits from competition as Dutch consumers do. In addition, we will continue to work for the benefit of consumers in these markets, for example, by providing information through ConsuWijzer.nl. Apart from this a new enforcement policy will follow later this year to afford greater protection to consumers against unwanted telemarketing, spam and the misuse of expensive toll numbers, amongst other things.”