The French telecoms regulatory authority (Arcep) recently launched a public consultation on prepaid phone cards which allow the user to make international calls at low cost, on the grounds that they reduce the profits of public phone booths. According to Arcep, the prepaid card market had a turnover at the end of 2005 of 240 million, the equivalent of 28 million cards sold every year.

The number of prepaid phone cards consisting of both national and international communication time at reduced rates have rocketed over the past few years and can be found for sale in retail shops, corner shops and even on the internet.

To be able to offer lower rates, the providers, reports Arcep, almost all use the automatic call back mechanism whereby the client calls (usually free of charge) a platform which then calls him back to put him in touch with his correspondent and deducting the proce of the call from his prepaid card.

The authority recognises that thei mechanism used with a...

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