At the End of the Day



At long, long last, I have landline wifi in the barn conversion. The process of ordering it began on December 5th. It took three months and one week to complete.

Orange promised to get my dossier activated after Christmas. They lost the dossier. The telephone options thereafter got me nowhere. I went to the website, going round and round in circles for days on end trying to find something – anything – that bore so much as 5% relevance to the simple task of moving my phone and internet connection 90 metres. Nothing….everywhere led to yet another page crammed with mobile kit to sell me.

I went back to the phone number on my bill, and tried all five options there in turn. None of them got me anywhere.

My next ploy was to go to Orange Conseil on Twitter, and ask for help. Nothing. So I began to tweet there by asking why they were so crap. This got a response: to shift me onto private messaging. I was given, during ten days, seven promises to “relaunch the dossier”. It was all lies. So I went back to the open tweeting page and asked what the point of Orange Conseil on Twitter was. I was blocked. Eventually, I traced the head of customer services via Linedin, and asked her personally for help. I never got a response.

A week ago, I went in desperation to my neighbour Jean-Pierre and asked if he could have a go. He spent an unbelievable 88 minutes on the phone going round in the same circles, until at last reaching a voice and then exercising his Gallic charm on the Rosa Kleb at the other end. She told him to ring 2012 and start all over again. So he did, and they told him to ring 2014. They in turn told him it was the wrong number and said “call 2012”. My neighbour exercised more charm and said he’d just done that. Rosa put him through to a number, the identity of which was never disclosed.

Amazingly, the call was answered and a rendezvous fixed for the next day. Only after putting down the phone did Jean-Pierre realise that the date he’d been given wasn’t the next day, it was Thursday.

So he started all over again, and Thursday was confirmed as the installation date.

The bloke who turned up as advertised didn’t work for Orange: he was a subcontractor, and knew nothing about the job. He was the worst kind of jobsworth tooth-sucker you could wish to meet. He was appallingly equipped, and just shook his head laughing when I suggested he drill through my wall. He told me to get someone to drill the hole, and then he’d come back the next morning. At very short notice I found a bloke with the length of drill to do it.

I never heard from or saw the technician again. The next afternoon, I rang his office, and they said the dossier is closed: you’ll have to go back to Orange and open a new one.

A rendezvous was arranged for Saturday afternoon. They turned up at 11 in the morning.

The whole business wasn’t so much a catalogue of errors as an entire encyclopaedia set of idiocy, obfuscation, incompetence, lies, very poor after-sales investment, and completely unhelpful telephonic or website guidance.

It was as if the game was to ignore the service request by every means at Orange’s disposal. For example, recorded options by phone to ring 2012 or 2014 are absent, and there’s nothing about them at all on the Orange website. As for the final call that got J-P through to a technician, to this day we don’t know what it was. And the subcontractors will not let you contact them direct at all after the 15-day post installation complaint window is closed.

Pure neoliberal monopolism masquerading as free-market private enterprise.The host brand was allowed to take over France Telecom without any added competition. It is hard to believe that brown envelopes didn’t intervene somewhere down the line; but whether or not, Orange is milking its landline asset (about which it obviously knows absolutely nothing): it takes the monthly rental money, runs straight down to the silo…and only in extremis will it grudgingly hire a baffled subcontractor to tackle the problem.

So: what is the French regulator doing about this?

Ending eight years of legal action from rivals, a week before Christmas last year, Orange was severely censured by France’s Autorité de la Concurrence for anti-competitive behaviour to rivals that use its national mobile and fixed-line networks for business customers. The regulator also criticised the group for not providing information about France’s copper line network to other operators. It said it would impose injunctions to restore fair competition – and in turn, Orange said it would change its practices following the ruling.

Exactly a month later, Orange announced its intention to buy Bouygues Telecom, France’s third-largest mobile operator, for about €10bn in cash and shares.

Two steps forward, three steps back. Sebastien Soriano – the head of France’s ARCEP telecoms regulator – said in an interview with business paper Les Echos at the time, “I’m drawing red lines. If this deal takes place, it must not lead to further consolidation of Orange’s position, especially in the markets where it is already a leader. Let’s make sure we don’t go backwards after opening the sector up to competition. Consumers’ gains are still fragile. We will be particularly attentive about the markets where competition is still limited, especially as regards business clients and rural areas”.

Which is all very well, but as my Great Aunt Lizzie used to say, “Fine words butter no parsnips”. It’s all beginning to smack somewhat of the indulgent Nanny who always wants to give the naughty child another chance.

Where precisely is this ‘competition’ to Orange’s fixed-line dairy operation? There is none – and as always when Big lifts itself above the Law, it is going to take mass action by someone or something to make it happen. This is the EU way with ‘economic reform’ in 2016. It’s no different at all to the rampant desire of so many multinationals and financial firms in the UK to suppress any and all requests for fair tax payments, regulation of ethics, or emergence of competition.

But the Remainders think by staying in the EU, they can reform a situation they can’t even change in their own homeland. They must, truly, be babes in arms.

Earlier at The Slog: Dolphins, Sebastopol, Iraq, Singapore and Albania…all in a day’s work for US élite media manipulationy