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Mobile phone bills in France rise by up to 120% due to hidden ‘gifts’

Major networks appear to have increased tariffs by stealth after clients reported having extra GB allowances or 5G services added without their request or approval

A four-part photo showing the logos of Free, SFR, Orange, and Bouygues Telecom

The major networks have reportedly been increasing charges by adding extra packages and gifts to existing contracts Pic: LDprod / Shutterstock

Some mobile phone bills have risen by up to 120% in France, after networks Bouygues Telecom, SFR, and Orange reportedly raised their tariffs over the summer with new ‘gifts’, even if clients had not asked for them.

Many of these tariffs or contracts (called ‘forfaits’ in French) were previously among the least profitable for the companies, and they have raised their cost in real terms, by adding ‘gifts’ and ‘exclusive offers’ to packages to enable the companies to charge more.

For example, these ‘gifts’ included extra GB of data, or an ability to use the faster 5G network.

One user, Michelle, told consumer association Que Choisir that Bouygues Telecom had informed her that she would be given an extra 10GB of data per month, and that the €3 extra cost would be added to her bill from the next month. This is despite her not having requested the extra amount, nor feeling that she needed it. 

Another user, Maryline, was told that she could continue to use 60GB extra, and also use the 5G network, for an extra cost. And yet, her phone is not 5G compatible. She decided to decline the offer.

One SFR user, Adrien, said that he had been told that his monthly bill would rise from €5 to €8, without him being able to say no, and that the amount was later raised to €11. This represents a 120% increase over just a few months.

Orange clients have reported similar occurrences. Many received letters from the operator earlier in the summer, saying that their Open Up bills would increase from July 1, except if they refused the change.

Jean-Philippe, a client of Cdiscount Mobile, said that he had been given an extra 10GB per month for €2 extra, without him having agreed to or asked for the change. He said that he was not able to cancel the offer, nor reach the customer service department, and so therefore decided to switch operators.

Yet, in 2021, a study found that French mobile phone bills are among the cheapest in the world, with most people paying an average of €14.60 per month. This is thought to be because of reasonably high competition in the market, with major operators including Free, Orange, SFR, and Bouygues Telecom.

Read more: French mobile phone bills among lowest in world at average €15 a month

The 2021 figures showed that French bills were three times lower than those in Germany, and up to five times lower than amounts paid in the US.

The entry of Free into the market in 2011, with its low offers, broke the ‘triopoly’ previously enjoyed by Orange, SFR, and Bouygues, and brought average rates down from €40 a month to the much lower €15.

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