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Avoid losing your mobile credit

Readers share their tips on how to avoid losing mobile pay-as-you-go credit on French phones

MOBILE phone contracts should be shortened from 24 months to just six or 12 to give users more freedom to shop around, the French telecoms regulator Arcep has recommended in a report. The regulator, however, makes no mention of mobile pay-as-you-go tariffs, which have been the subject of several complaints from Connexion readers.

Ian Jameson, who lives in the Vendée, says: “It is ridiculous that you have to keep topping up in order to avoid losing all your previous credit. Why do they do this? Is there not an EU law that has control on this?”

Connexion newsletter readers have their say:

I agree with you 100% about PAYG tariffs – I have a holiday house in France and need a portable with a French number so I can be contacted locally (most French seem to have an irrational fear of calling a number abroad so my UK mobile is not much use). I have to keep paying for a €10 recharge just to keep my number, and it’s a Virgin number. Contrast this Virgin in the UK which charges me (by monthly DD) for what I spend on calls and not a penny more. If I don’t make any calls I pay nothing but the number stays alive.

David Shamash

I agree with the criticisms made in your e-mail article, both about French mobile contracts as well as "pay-as-you-go". My wife and I have had a monthly contract with France Telecom since early 2007 and being tied to a 24 month contract does make it difficult to "shop around" (that said, the problem is also that there is not yet much competition in France to "shop around" to!). Another downside is that tarifs are not very transparent, i.e., it is difficult to calculate a rate per minute for different types of calls, as is customary in UK contracts, and it is also unclear how text messaging is calculated within the amount allowed under the contract per month. On the more positive side, we have twice had to request replacement phones (because of technical problems with the old model) and both times this was completed efficiently. We recently took advantage of the "change phones" offer to upgrade our model, and I kept the original as a "pay-as-you-go" for use when my wife and I are in separate places. Here I do find the rules seriously inflexible, in that credit has to be used by a certain date or forfeited. To my mind, this borders on the criminal as the customer can be literally robbed of something he has paid for in good faith if by chance he cannot use it by a certain date. The "Hobson's Choice" is either to subscribe with very small amounts of credit at a very high rate per minute, or to buy larger amounts at a discount but to run the risk that they will not be used by the cut-off date. I compare this with my UK Orange "pay-as-you-go" contract, under which I can buy as much or as little credit as I want, and use it whenever I want without restriction - crucially without running the risk of forfeiting it. Are there no budding "auto-entrepreneurs" out there among the ex-pat community in France with the wherewithall to tackle these issues?

Peter Halfpenny

For six or seven years, my mobile was registered with Orange, and not wanting to have another telephone abonnement, I always purchased the Orange Mobicarte. Not using it much, I was always furious about having to purchase a new Carte before the old one had been used, as otherwise I would have lost the value still pertaining to the previous card. In Germany, I think, last year their highest court ruled this system invalid, as you cannot annul (they said) a service you have paid for. But apparently not in France. I 'disembarked' from Orange; unlinking from Orange was difficult enough, although I had been their client for a number of years - until they gave me the code. I am now with LeclercMobile. With the latter, I can top up online from €5 - valid for one year!
Go ahead, give them hell.

Bob Schedler

Since I got fed up of wasting credit on my Orange pay as you go mobile, I now top it up with €5 twice a year, just to keep the number going to receive calls. For my relatively few outgoing mobile calls, I use my UK mobile. Orange are losing a lot of business by insisting on ripping off unused credit on pay as you go mobiles.

Martin Shaw

Ever since I read a piece in Connexion about the pay-as-you-go deal at Leclerc, I have been using this. I pay €1.50 a month, and whenever I top up (easy to do online), my entire credit balance lasts a further year. Each month there's a statement online. It is a really good deal. I retain my contract with Orange in the UK. Unfortunately this means carrying two phones around. The dual SIM phones I read about in another edition of Connexion are still horrible expensive - £180 to £200 when I enquired on a trip to London this week.

Sue Helm

I now have three pay-as-you-go sim cards from Orange UK that offer real pay as you go service as long as you use the phone at least once a year. Why are French providers so underhand and obtuse as not to realise that a similar service in France would bring in much more business for them ?

Peter Sturtivant

Like so many others, I absolutely hate being put in the position of having to top up a pay-as-you-go contract just in order to avoid losing the credit previously built up. We suffer it on one mobile, but for my wife's (kept mostly for emergencies) we stick to a UK SIM card. Dearer calls on the occasion we use it, but the hidden bonus is better network coverage in the countryside, since UK mobiles "roam" in France, and so can access any network with a signal, not just a single French one. Better coverage is actually a highly desirable feature for an emergency phone.

Chris Robinson

I too had the problem of PAYG payment duration, mentioned by a reader in the Vendée. There is an immediate solution: purchase a Leclerc SIM card and pay for one of the tariffs most suitable to the user. The top-up is always valid for a year and is added to the existing balance. The account can be monitored by email on the internet and supplies monthly printouts of usage - useful if evidence
of calls is ever required.

Lindsay Pitkethly

I have a pay-as-you-go direct debit to my credit card with Vodafone UK (I may make only two or three calls in a year but it remains alive). Sadly it is impossible to find similar in France. Thus I have a French mobile phone for emergencies only, with which I have to buy €10 every six months to keep the SIM card alive. This gives me 15 days of calls up to the €10. As almost all my calls - international and national cost nothing to make with my ADSL provider I just waste that €10 as often as not. I would use the phone more if I could have a similar to the UK Vodafone package in France. It is time for the French mobile market to get a bit more user friendly and cheaper.

Julian Ironside

I agree with your correspondent about the ridiculously short validity periods on pay-as-you-go French mobiles. As my husband and I only have mobiles as an emergency measure (or very occasionally to check with the other whether we need something while out shopping) we have found it cheaper to just keep using our English pay-as-you-go sims as there is no way that we are likely to use 15 euros' worth of credit in the same number of days or any of the other similar variations on offer.

Karin Fancett

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