March 21, 2007 7:45 AM PDT

EC ponders Europe's emergency toll-free service

Following the creation of a Europe-wide toll-free number for reporting missing children, the European Commission is investigating what more can be done with such numbers across the continent.

The Commission's information society and media commissioner, Viviane Reding, said the EC is now considering future six-digit pan-European "free-phone" numbers, to start with 116, including a helpline for children. The number for reporting missing children is 116000.

According to the Commission, the 116 range of numbers will be reserved for services that "will help citizens in difficulty or contribute to their well-being or safety." The Commission is now fielding suggestions from the public on possible uses of such numbers.

The Commission will then decide which services to adopt and allow individual member states to allocate the numbers to appropriate organizations within the country.

The period for public comment will close on May 20. The Commission has posted information about prospective free-phone service and contact information online (click here for PDF).

Jo Best of reported from London.

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