Free comes top for customer service

Consumer watchdog is suing Free, but first official comparison from telecoms regulator finds ISP scores highly

FREE has come top in an official league table of French internet service providers providing the best customer service.

Telecoms regulator Arcep has published figures for the first time comparing each of the major operators with more than 100,000 customers.

The report found that Free was the quickest to deal with customer problems and among the fastest to get new connections set up.

However it was also the ISP where customers were the most likely to hit a technical problem within their first month online.

Free was found to fix 93.5% of customers' problems with 48 hours, compared with 89.5% for Bouygues Telecom, 86.6% for SFR and 74.7% for Numericable.

The worst performer in this category was Orange, owned by France Telecom, which only managed to fix 70.5% of problems within two days.

However Free scored the worst when it came to technical faults reported during the first month of a connection being set up.

Some 20.9% of Free customers called to report a problem, compared with 15.2% at Bouygues Telecom, 13.2% for SFR, 5.01% with Orange and 4.1% at Numericable.

Free managed to set up 94.5% of new internet connections within 20 days, behind SFR on 96.4% and Numericable and Orange on 97.5% each.

Bouygues Telecom only managed to get 89.5% of lines up and running within three weeks.

Free is currently locked in a legal battle with UFC Que Choisir over a series of practices that the consumer group says are illegal, such as charging users €0.34 a minute to call the technical support helpline and a refusal to send paper bills to customers.

A mediator has been appointed to deal with the dispute, but the case could return to court if an agreement is not reached.