The French telecoms provider Orange imposes a default charge for troubleshooting visits by a technician, but one only the unwary normally need pay.
The former State monopoly Orange is the dominant player in the telecoms market in France, particularly in rural areas where the network of their ISP competitors is less developed.
Even so, the speed and reliability of the connection often leaves a lot to be desired due to the lack of maintenance and development of the network.
As a result, call-outs to rectify a problem are not uncommon.
In recent years Orange have improved the quality of their after-sales service, with the contractual response time for a visit now given as 48 hours.
It is also possible to use the free chat system they provide on their website to report a problem, although that requires you have a functioning internet line!
The alternative it is the price of a local call to their customer service centre.
If the problem requires a visit by one of their technicians you will be required to provide a mobile telephone number via which the date of the visit is confirmed.
The sms message you will receive will advise you that there will be a call-out charge of €69 for the visit:
'les frais de deplacement vous seront facturés 69 € ttc'.
That customers should be obliged to pay for rectification of a problem for which Orange are responsible comes as a surprise to many people.
What neither the sms nor the contract conditions state is that this charge will only be imposed if the cause of the problem arises from inside the property - from wiring, filters or a router not the responsibility of Orange.
If the problem is external, or there is a default on a router that belongs to Orange, there is no charge, although this is not stated.
At the time of their visit the technician should indicate on their report whether or not the work they have carried out is chargeable.
A large number of reports on the web suggests that does not always occur and that even when it does happen the charge is still imposed by Orange.
The issue similarly arises in relation to opening a new line with Orange for which the company imposes a charge of €55, even though the property may already have a line and telephone points.
Where there exists no existing line the charge also includes the installation of a maximum of 30 metres of cable from an existing line and provision of a maximum of two telephone points in the property.
However, the conditions also state that an additional charge of €69 will be imposed for any visit that may be required as part of the installation process:
'Des frais de déplacement de 69€ TTC sont facturés lorsque la mise en service de la ligne nécessite l’intervention d’un technicien au domicile du client.'
As the installation of telephone points in the property clearly requires they enter the property there is an obvious contradiction in the terms.
Once again, what is not stated is that this charge is only imposed if the technician needs to undertake repairs to the system in your property that may be defective.
Accordingly, the advice to customers is to make sure that the written report you obtain from the visiting technician makes clear whether or not their intervention is chargeable and to retain a copy of the report should you be charged and need to reclaim the sum from Orange.
Also worth noting is that the conditions state that if you do not attend the property for the appointment the €69 charge will be automatically applied:
'Le déplacement d’un technicien chez le client fait l’objet d’une prise de rendez-vous systématique. En conséquence, en cas de non-respect par le client de la date de rendez-vous alors que le technicien s'est déplacé, Orange facture l'intégralité des frais de déplacement du technicien au client.'
Where there are two problems, one the responsibility of Orange and the other that of the customer, perhaps the best advice is to make sure you have a plentiful supply of tea or coffee to offer the technician!