Telecoms users are being canvassed by user associations to back a proposed complaint against the high tariffs charged by European telecommunications companies.
According to the Telecommunications Managers' Association and local government user group Society of Information Technology Management (Socitm), prices in Europe are 'in many cases 10 times more than they are in the US'.
The groups fear UK businesses and government bodies will become trapped in an economic backwater as e-commerce becomes too expensive for all but large, global conglomerates.
This has led both groups to request support from users for a formal complaint they plan to make to UK telecoms regulator Oftel and the European Commission.
The complaint will focus on high charges for leased lines.
Socitm president Paul Offen wrote an open letter to the society's members late last month. Offen asked users to 'convince politicians, the public and even the telecoms carriers that short-term gain will result in long-term loss'.
The campaign has already won the support of Reuters, which spends #200 million a year on telecoms. Phil Sayer, Reuters' global communications manager, said: 'This is a big issue for anybody involved in electronic commerce. It's cheaper to host Websites in the US, so that's where all the business is going.'
Any complaint, however, will attract vocal opposition from Europe's leading telcos. A BT representative said: 'BT operates in a competitive market for leased lines and business telecoms. If there's a complaint, we'd be happy to provide evidence to prove we offer value for money.'
Statistics compiled by Reuters demonstrate the cost of a cross-border 300km 2Mbps circuit in the US is 1,600Ecu (#1,070) a month, against 26,000Ecu (#17,400) for the same cross-border line specification within Europe.
Oftel said it would take complaints seriously, but stressed it had no responsibility for setting prices.
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