Phone users may no longer get a cheap phone if they sign a long-term contract as the highest appeal court, the Cour de cassation, says this is a disguised easy-credit facility which, by law, forces firms to carry out credit checks and tell clients of hidden costs.
Customers have long benefited from cheaper phones if they sign a two-year deal and Free Mobile – which does not offer this – had complained of unfair competition in a court case against SFR that has been running since 2012.
Free says the judgment could void many contracts, letting users change operator in what it sees as a market of 17million people.
SFR would not comment, saying the case was not yet complete but added that it concerned an old forfait from 2011, which had very few users today.
However, there are far fewer subsidised phone deals offered today – down from 100% of the market in 2011 to 33% in 2016.