''Communications in the XXI Century'' consumers want new services but are concerned about costs

/ Updated on 24.01.2002

Prices, security in electronic transactions and health hazards are the main worries of Portuguese consumers in regards to access to the latest telecommunications services and products of convergence. Consumers also reveal that they have insufficient knowledge of the complaints systems available to them.

The surveyed consumers expressed their enthusiasm for new e-mail services and access to the various types of information to be provided by third generation mobile phones. In the same vein, they expressed that they were receptive to receiving digital television transmissions with better sound and image quality, more channels and real-time interactive services.

These are some of the conclusions that may be drawn from the enquiry on "Communications in the XXI Century", conducted this year by Instituto das Comunicações de Portugal (ICP) and the Portuguese Consumer Defence Association (DECO).

The most frequent concern mentioned by the surveyed consumers is the costs of services, establishing this as the most important factor in access to technological innovations. The majority of responses identify individual contracts for services as their preferred model, rather than adhesion to packages of services or the offer of general discounts. 60% of consumers declare that their enthusiasm for new products is conditioned by prices. The same percentage is recorded in relation to the adhesion to new services (53%) and access to digital television platforms (67%).

The same rule applies to the integration of various different items of equipment in the home. For 45% of the surveyed consumers, the main interest in integration of equipment is the possibility of reducing costs. 66% of those surveyed also declared that they considered it important to reduce the prices of Internet access.

Electronic commerce was valued because of its cost and time savings and ease-of-use. Even so, 14% of those surveyed indicated that they were not prepared to acquire goods via the Internet, and 22% expressed no opinion. The latter category of responses was mainly from elder individuals, with lower income and educational levels.

Amongst those expressing interest in e-commerce, over half (60%) revealed that they were worried about security in transactions. The absence of direct contact with products (44%) and the supply of personal data (32%) are also important concerns. In relation to the latter issue, over half of the responses (53%) declared that they were unwilling to divulge personal data.

One of the main interests of consumers in relation to new multimedia platforms such as digital terrestrial television or third generation mobile phones, is the possibility to make information searches and have real-time interaction. In the specific case of mobile communications, the main interest is in diverse information (65%) and e-commerce (43%). Lower interest was expressed in regards to functions such as support of population groups with special needs, tele-working, entertainment services and video-conferences.

These expectations continue to contrast with the relative ignorance on the complaint systems available for each of the services identified in the survey: fixed telephone, mobile telephone, Internet and television. Even so, the surveyed consumers revealed that they had far greater knowledge of the complaints systems for the fixed telephone service (34%) compared to that for the other services. The extreme case is that of the Internet, in which only 8% declared that they knew to whom complaints can be made. 10% of those surveyed stated that they did not know how to make complaints concerning the fixed telephone service.

Within the universe of those surveyed, most consumers had a television set, mobile phone and fixed telephone. Overall, nine out of ten consumers declared that they owned such equipment. The most popular type of equipment is the television, and most individuals declared that they had 2 or more TV sets. Only 18% only had one TV set, and 5% had no set at all.

A similar situation is recorded in regards to mobile phones. Only 11% had no mobile phone and almost half (39%) had two mobile phones.

The presence of home computers is far from achieving the same levels. 56% of consumers declared that they had a computer and 15% had two computers. Amongst those with computers, only 40% subscribed to Internet services.

Most consumers surveyed were of middle-class origins, resident in the main urban centres, had higher education, and above average consumption profiles and access to telecommunications and audiovisual services. 29,000 replies were accepted, representing the same number of households.