Orange battle continues

Things have got even worse since I last wrote about my internet service . Not only can I not talk to my family using FaceTime (like Skype) or watch British TV news, but now I cannot even use the internet to listen to the radio – or even log onto the Orange site to look at the details of my contract and use ‘chat’ to complain.

I did manage an unsatisfactory chat two weeks ago, when once again the Orange employee brought out the standard line that the network here is poor but all will change shortly. And I keep repeating there is ‘poor’ and ‘very poor’. My service is significantly worse than my neighbours.

I have changed the channel, as recommended by Orange. And I have bought a wifi extender to try and stop the internet dropping when further than a couple of yards from the Livebox (the orange router and wifi server). All to no avail.

Today I tried a new technique. If I ring the standard number I end up tapping options into the phone and never talking to a human. There is also an English-speaking service and here – wonders – after a ten-minute wait, I was speaking to a human. Well, sort of. It soon became obvious that the Orange training had been effective: she had the responses pat – presumably reading them out from her screen.

Me: I know there is a problem with the network in this area and that we will have a better service in six months, but my problems are growing daily and cannot wait that long. I explain that the download speed is often less than 1 MBps and the wifi connection has increasingly started to drop.

Orange: there is a problem with the network and it will improve in a few months.

Me: Yes, I know. I just said that. But meanwhile my internet is getting worse daily, unlike my neighbours, and I wonder if could be either my line or my Livebox (I have version 2 and the current box is version 4(.

Orange: I will check your line and box. (Several minutes later). There is nothing wrong with the connection or your box. And the download speed registers as 8MBps.

Me: But that is not possible. I have not had a speed like that for two months.

Orange: This is because you are using wifi not ethernet.

Me: I expect a small degradation in speed, but not a reduction of 1/8. What’s more, my neighbours dont have this problem.

Orange: Ah, but your neighbours’ lines may go elsewhere.

Me: No. They all go to the box at the corner of my land. One of my friends (Hans) regularly has a speed of above 8Mbps.

Orange: (checks Hans’ line and confirms that his download speed is currently 9MBps). You will need to talk to our commercial service; he is on a better contract than you.

Me: I am astonished. I did not know that the internet speed was determined by your contract, which I thought covered things like just how much you can download in a month. Further, I happen to know that Hans pays less a month than my nearly 100 euros! But OK, I say, I will talk to the commercial division.

Orange: (a few minutes later) The commercial service closes in five minutes, at 5pm. Please ring them tomorrow at 9am. (We have been on the phone for an hour and my landline phone is out of battery anyway.)

So next step: the commercial division at 9am tomorrow. I will be interested to know what contract I am on (since I cannot check it online!) and how much longer I have to do battle to get a new Livebox. Hans got so fed up he picked his old one up and drove to our nearest store in Montpellier, some 80km away to insist on it being replaced. I may well be doing this tomorrow.

You do feel so impotent. Orange is the privatised version of the old France Télécom we joined up with back in the 90s. It is one of the four big providers and essentially has a near monopolistic stranglehold on telecommunications in France. None of the so-called advantages of competition in a capitalist market place and none of the consumer rights you expect to find in a publicly owned service.

Next morning. Update.

Wow! Success – sort of. I talked to a very nice woman in Paris (commercial service – so customer relations are important…). I have upgraded my Orange contract (more money, so I am taking the risk of cancelling my iPhone insurance) and not only will I be entitled to a new Livebox but calls to mobiles in Europe are free – including the UK. (She assures me that for five years after Brexit this will continue.)

The downside is I have to wait several days, perhaps till next week, for the Livebox to arrive in le Vigan. Don’t ask me why it should take so long!

So the moral of the story is that it pays to use the English language service, in order to talk to humans not robots.

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