As some of you may now, the e-money debate in Europe is not one of the best examples of proper policy thinking. While payments via pre-paid funds of mobile operators reach staggering heights (24 billion euro in 2004) the Commission still feels that the rules as to e-money should not be applied. The consequence is that no single user of a pre-paid phone can convert the pre-paid value into cash or money again. And this is in clear violation of the e-money directive.
Now, some free agents in the market fill this gap and use premium service lines to give the user its pre-paid funds back. In doing so they demonstrate that pre-paid funds of mobile operators can be used for payment to third parties (thereby fulfilling the definition of e-money of te e-money directive) and that these funds can be redeemed (a process which operators explain would be too costly to perform....).
Whilst these free market players demonstrate the illegality of the mobile operator policy not to redeem the e-money of their customers, Planet Multimedia reports that Orange Netherlands now even considers lawsuits against these companies. That's quite a bit like the pot calling the kettle black.