Discussion Papers

Brigitte Bauer

Nutzerorganisation und -repräsentation in der Telekommunikation
Nr. 166 / Oktober 1996

Summary

As the liberalization of telecommunications markets affects telecommunications users in many respects, one often argues in favour of greater participation of users in the reform process. Taking into account that single customers lack time, money and knowledge to express their views and interests, an appropriate means is seen in collective action. Consumer organizations are expected to strengthen the position of consumers with regard to telephone companies and policy decision makers.

The study starts with a discussion of different forms and objectives of consumer organizations. Following this, Germany serves as an example to give an overview over general patterns of user organization and user representation in telecommunications. It is shown that although there exists a large number of user organizations which focus on telecommunications, some consumer groups seem to get organized much easier than others. Portrayed in simplified terms, business users are organized very well, while self-organization of residential customers seems to face severe difficulties.

To protect the unorganized interests, it is sometimes argued that governmental action is needed. In particular, consumer representatives established by the government are to act on behalf of consumer self-organizations. Taking this as a point of departure, the study describes examples of such types of consumer representatives in foreign coun-tries and examines whether they can serve as a model for Germany. At first sight, these institutions seem to be a practicable solution. Nevertheless, a critical analysis with a focus on the consumer representatives’ tasks „consumer information“, „consumer representation with regard to telephone companies“ and „consumer representation with regard to policy decision makers“ shows that this kind of consumer protection is subject to a number of different problems. It is especially important to note that the consumer representatives will not be able to cover really all relevant consumer aspects and topics. Accordingly, the idea of in fact creating a balance of interests is not very realistic. Simultaneously it can be shown that doing without „government-initiated“ consumer representatives does not necessarily mean that unorganized interests are not taken into account and have to „suffer in silence“. It is therefore concluded that telecommunications policy should make only restrained use of this instrument of consumer protection.

Only German language version available.

To top  |  Print