Telephone companies resent EC price attack

BRUSSELS - Europe's monopoly telephone companies criticised a European Commission attack on the prices they charge for international calls, writes Tim Jackson.

The Commission yesterday published figures revealing that customers have to pay between two-and-a-half and three times more for an international call than for a domestic call of the same distance. International call prices vary sharply, depending on which end a call is made. The Commission says a three-minute call from Belgium to Denmark costs pounds 1.88; dialled from Denmark, the same call costs pounds 1.

Sir Leon Brittan, the Commission vice-president in charge of competition policy, has asked users and telephone companies to give their views on how the telephone-call market might be liberalised.

One telephone company accused the Commission of having a British and American bias, and disputed Sir Leon's contention that Europeans were likely to make more international calls if they cost less.