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Customers unhappy with mobile and fibre after fast roll-out in France

High-speed internet access has improved but customers are complaining about poor quality service and shoddy installation

French mobile operators

Le Monde uncovered that work installing fibre-optic cabling could be sub-contracted up to eight times Pic: sylv1rob1 / photofort 77 / Shutterstock

France’s all-out push to increase mobile phone and high-speed internet access has left many customers unhappy with the service once they get it. 

Record number of complaints

Some 17% of SFR customers have complained about phone or internet – 13% of Bouygues customers, 9% with Orange, and 8% with Free, says telecoms regulator Arcep.

Years of investment might have improved access but Arcep said the quality was lagging, judging by the number of complaints on its J’alerte l’Arcep app.

These hit 38,060 in 2021, up 14% on 2020, although the regulator said a survey by poll firm CSA had found a very slight improvement on the ratings customers gave the four main operators. 

SFR was lowest, with 7.2 out of 10; Bouygues 7.5; then Free and Orange on top, with 7.9. 

The previous year’s results varied between 7.1 and 7.7, with the firms in the same positions.

Read more: Snail-pace data, good deal: Which French mobile operator do you use?

Installation subcontracted up to eight times

Arcep said that while only 30% of users complained of mobile problems, 51% complained about fixed lines, especially fibre-optic lines, where 49% had technical problems – as against 27% for fraud and nuisance calls.

Hardest-hit were customers on Free and SFR, with complaints of not enough lines and broken fibre-optic cabling.

Journalists from Le Monde discovered that work installing fibre-optic cabling could be subcontracted up to eight times, with the final installer making very little and some even ‘stealing’ lines from other operators to complete jobs.

Before-and-after photos could raise quality of work

A follow-up on TF1 news found connection cabinets left by subcontractors with a ‘rats nest’ of jumbled cables and some residents opening cabinets themselves to reconnect, rather than waiting weeks for the operators to do the job.

Arcep is looking at making installers take before-and-after photos of cabinets to ensure good work.

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