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back to article Steelie Neelie floats pan-European phone number notion

The European Commission is opening a consultation on whether businesses would find a pan-European telephone number useful, or useless. One contact number which would work across the European Union might reduce costs for multi-national businesses and make cross-border trade simpler for consumers. Neelie Kroes, VP of the European …

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I already have one

It's +44 [my number]. Even better it works globally.

As a continent we're a bit skint now, Eurowonks. How about we decide that by and large the phone network works and concentrate on the serious business of setting proper standards for banana curvature.

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Might I be the first to say

meh.

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Coat

UIFN

Isn't this what the Universal International Freephone Number (UIFN) is.. the +800 numbers you see sometimes.

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small language problems?

remember, all these companies use bloody automated systems.

those of us in Canada are already familiar with 'for service in English press 1' (of course, everyone's automated system uses a different number for English and French, so you can't just skip the message). That'll be fun in Europe. 'For service in Flemish, press 734'...

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Black Helicopters

...no language problems.

Never heard of ANI/CLI, eh? Make the IVR recognize the caller's number and all Belgian callers have to contend with is "for Flemish, press 1; for Walloon, press 2". Since we're very territorial in Belgium when it comes to languages, the system could go a step further and tell from the caller's area code which choices are appropriate. Callers in the northern part of Belgium would hear: "for Flemish, press 1; for Walloon, press 2 and you will be administered a mild electric shock".

OK, no need to flame me. We speak Dutch, French and German in Belgium.

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Dial 44 for the UK

I can just hear the automated messages for Europe:

For Dutch, press 31

For French, press 33

For English, press 44

For Danish, press 45

For Polish, press 48

For German, press 49

Or you could just dial the country number as the first few digits of the call

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I thought we already had them:

e.g. +44 1924 304388

works from all round the world! And it's an un-metered call for those not on an economy tarrif.

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Bonjour parlez vous anglais?

Yeah great, so instead of people in England getting a call centre somewhere outside Europe that doesn't speak english very well, French people calling the call centre that doesn't quite speak French and Germans getting frustrated with someone who barely understands German we can all phone the same call centre that doesn't speak any of them!

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Language Problems

No problem. By the time they get this all sorted out, we'll all be speaking Esperanto (or Klingon, or Elvish, maybe).

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Euro-NANP

Seems like someone thought that the NANP is better than E.164.

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E.164

We have a perfectly good internationally-agreed standard for *worldwide* numbering. It's called E.164 and was introduced in 1997.

Doesn't that woman have a real job to keep her from pointless makework at taxpayers expense?

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Boffin

I was going to say.....

.... +44 is spot on.

But one thing did strike me.

If I call +49 from the UK it costs me an international call.

I can dial Germany without the +49 and it costs me the same as calling from Leeds to York [which also does not have the +49..!!] I'd go for it.

But if calling Germany without +49 is still an international call, will it not just be massively more confusing when it comes to knowing how much a call is before you call.... ?

For me dialling +49 means "keep it short laddy, that is Germany you are calling....!"

P.

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Bonjour

To speeek to ah reprenteteeve een Eengleesh, pleeze press one.

pour parler à un représentant en français, s'il vous plaît appuyer sur deux

zu sprechen, einen Vertreter in Deutsch, bitte drücken Sie drei

di parlare con un rappresentante in italiano, si prega di premere quattro

para hablar con un representante en español, por favor, pulse cinco

techo siarad Cymraeg y el techo de spa cynrychiadol, por favor presione seis

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Go

I like it

0810 xxxyyy or something similar to provide a unified contact number with companies offering an EU wide service and which is the same in every country.

Not only a number that works but a prefix that is publicised as being unified so that it's easier to remember

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But will you be charged for dialling internationally?

And how much will you be charged for that call, just for the benefit of easy remembering... By the way in this age of ubiquitous internet coverage - who really needs to remember phone numbers? Is it so hard to look up the company's phone number on their website? And at least with the current system you know up front whether your going to be charged for an international call...

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Stop

International Freefone?

Part of the +8 number range has already been allocated for GLOBAL freecall numbers that should be available from any country in the world. Most companies dont use them as they are expensive way to pay for customers to call.

Another dumb idea just like forcing the price of roaming up by allowing operators to charge a "capped" (sorry FIXED) per minute for roaming calls removing all competition. This acually costs the consumer more as most operators billed per second before this "EU driven directive".

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(Oh)

I agree with all the +44 comments above, but don't see why we have the (0) thing. It's simple for us lot to understand but 'normal' people have to use it too.

i.e. 01234xxxxxx becomes +441234xxxxxx but when written on stationery it's usually +44(0)1234xxxxx.

My Spanish mobile number simply gets a +34 stuck on the front of it to make it internationally callable. 648xxxxx becomes +34648xxxxxx

When people visit me here, even in these times of international connectedness I still get asked how to call UK numbers.

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D'oh!

I don't remember where as I don't make a lot of international calls asides from to the UK, but there was one place that kept giving me automated messages until I realised that you *don't* omit the leading zero. I think it might have been Italy?

I guess the "(0)" being added covers all permutations.

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Potentially useful

I can see that some companies might not want to provide a +800 (00 800) number for free calls, and they're not supported by all telcos, either.

It might be useful to know that you can always dial a certain number to reach, say, your bank or for a big company's customer services to have one number, wherever you are in Europe. Certainly I can imagine being able to advertise 0xxxx abc SONY, for instance, would be appealing to pan-european firms.

You could easily determine the most likely language to answer in by knowing the originating caller ID, and allow people to press a button (ideally a common one) for a language menu if necessary.

The bigger problem, perhaps, is finding a number range that would allow it, in each country - I think that's the only reason you'd want to do this; if you used +800 or had one of the other international codes like +801 allocated, you'd still have pretty long numbers - five digits used up before you even got to allocating digits to subscribers.

Really, if you were to do something like this, you'd want something that's only a digit or two more than national dialling, at most, I'd have thought.

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Boffin

+44 is not pan-European

I think spegru has it right - the +44 prefix means that you are calling Britain, which may not be what you want.

If you are bored enough to watch Eurosport, you may have seen an example of the problem with those crappy adverts selling ringtones/screensavers (e.g. cats and dogs apparently licking the inside of your screen). There follows a long list of numbers to call for each country, with an announcement in each language. Ideally, there would be a single number to call, which would translate into a local call in each country.

It's not about which country your call eventually gets routed to - calling a +44 number is no guarantee that you won't end up talking to someone at a call center in Kazakhstan or Kiribati - it's about a company that operates internationally being able to use the same contact information in every country that it operates in. They can already do this for web addresses and email, so why not telephone numbers?

Whether this is a matter that requires the attention of the formidable Ms Kroes and her massive team of public-trough slurpers is another matter.

Oh, and @AdamWill: Flemish is not an obscure minority language, as you appear to think - it's simply what the Dutch language is called in Belgium.

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Really , that happens ?

Do people really watch "Euro Sport" ..... ?

Agree with the rest... is great for europe, just not sure /we/ need it !!

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+44 is not pan-European

The reason all the different numbers are shown is so that the caller calls a local phone number, ie. cheaper. The pan european number won't be cheaper unless the business subsidises it or the phone companies subsidise it to make it the same price as an within-country call.

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Yes some people do watch it

The European Curling championship has been on Eurosport all week.

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Stop

re: I was going to say ..

don't we already have +9180 ........ ?

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Seems like a good idea

... just like the single european currency is a good idea (until the cold winds blow) and the Single European Sky will be a good idea (until all Air Traffic Controllers behave like the French and the Spanish).

They could just leave well alone - if it works, why fiddle? But of course we can't have that because the future European State will require commonality across all regions. Commonality is more important than common sense.

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Anonymous Coward

It already exists, but she does have a point... sadly.

Yes, just writing +44 works. Most people still use it wrong (not supposed to put "(0)" in there anywhere, at all, sayeth E.123), and them poor breakaway colonials just plain don't understand it. It's really simple for them, though: The full number with +1 in front: +18005551234. That's all there is to it. Sorting long distance access codes for each state is more work by comparison. But oh the confusion.

+800 doesn't work so well. Got reamed for a goodly chunk of PAYG money calling one such number a while back. Apparently if you get redirected all bets are off, and international calls are often still prohibitively expensive. I'm now using a different PAYG for call out that offers me calls to .hk for the same as local landline calls: Some 9 eurocents a minute. Yes, calling any number in .hk is cheaper than calling a mobile in the local country. The incumbent landline operator, by contrast, charges 150 eurocents a minute to .hk. Oh, and they recently made moves to "harmonise" their landline and mobile tariffs, by upping landline-to-landline charges. Sounds like a sound plan... to get more people let go of landlines. Perhaps that's what they want.

However, there already exists a pan-european dialing code: +383. It's been around for a while, but has not, so far, managed to achieve anything useful. The byzantine numbering proposals for an essentially empty space didn't help much there, and neither did the various corporations and buraucracies that are supposedly running the show. Some went into administration, others proved plain irresponsible to simple inquiries of interest regarding announcements they'd made themselves. Oh well.

Apparently European telco people _need_ a Steelie Neelie to make them even just as much as answer their email. She won't be wanting for things to do any time soon, then.

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WTF?

Why try fixing something that ain't broke?

One of the few things that has worked well are the international numbering plans and agreements. So why go messing it up?

There was a lot of thought put into the present plan. 852 (straight down the digital dial) for HongKong; 212 fast rotary dialling for a busy place like New York, as was 213 for Los Angeles (issued in 1947) surrounded by 323. Washington DC is 202 - a high number for an politically important but not, in 1947, particularly busy; 313 for busy Detroit.

44 and 33 were good numbers and undoubtedly assigned for their world (colonial) significance.

Areas with potentially high phone counts/populations were awarded single digits: 1 - North America (now less the Caribbean); 8 for China and Russia 7.

The agreement overrode politics, too. U.S. numbers couldn't dial Cuba, but Canada could through the then cable from Miami to Cuba. For the U.S. East Germany wasn't recognised diplomatically but nevertheless it could be reached by non-U.S. numbers through White Plains New York.

Who would have thought, numbers for international co-operation!

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Grenade

Not needed

I own propery in the UK, and I call Scotland my home, but am currently working outwith the UK. I regulary need to contact services in the UK that only publish 0845 and similar numbers. They don't work from Germany, and each time I have to google and/or email my way around to try to find a regular phone number so I can actually prepend 0044.

However, these services are all local, regional or national, and my guess is that there would be only a small number of companies that would actually wish to pay (and pay they will have to) for a service as proposed by Ms Kroes.

Wish she'd spend her efforts on something actually worthwhile

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say no to 0870

Have you tried http://www.saynoto0870.com/ to look up the standard number. We use it all the time so that we don't get charged the massive fees on our mobile phones. Many web sites also have lurking for overseas visitors a normal number too.

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Grenade

One number to rule them all

And in European superstate hell bind them.

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