A fascinating thing about France is the corrupting power of (some) corporates. For example, there are three mobile phone companies. In my three months here, I’ve personally experienced behaviour from two of them that in the UK would be considered criminal.
Orange sold me a contract for a laptop dongle as “illimité”. They didn’t get round to telling me the little detail that the word “illimité” was an outright lie; the dongle is limited to a very impractical 1G a month. One Microsoft update and that bar is reached. Orange committed the UK crime of misselling.
I bought an SFR SIM card for use on a pay–as–you–go basis; buy the credit, use it. However, it turns out that I have to use it very quickly. If I do as I like to do in all other countries, buy a lot of credit in case I need to make a long international call, and then don’t use that credit, SFR steal the money. In other countries, it stays around to be used. I had €15 stolen because I didn’t use it in March. When I challenged one of their representatives, they told me I’d ‘lost’ the money. That’s the language of the playground bully. SFR committed the UK crime of theft.
I haven’t used the third mobile company, Bourgnyes, although the fact they don’t totally dominate the market suggests they’re just as criminal as the other two.
My solution? Well, I don’t make many phone calls. Having had €15 out of €25 stolen by SFR, it may well be cheaper for me to use my existing Belgian number than a French one while here in France. However, that still gives money to the phone networks, so I’m going to try and reduce my fairly low phone use by switching to email and online messengers when I can. I will keep the SFR phone number for as long as I can, though buying no credit, so people can still phone me.
The bigger matter is that it seems perfectly acceptable for large French corporates to behave this way. The French government is notorious for giving in to public pressure, suggesting it is relatively weak. The behaviour of these corporates, that they are not controlled, also suggest the government is relatively weak. The weakness is perhaps indicated by a whiff of the smelly stuff between French politicians and large corporates, far more so than in the UK (even with the current expenses scandal). Here, politicos buy post–political income for themselves and their friends in the form of fat “post–retirement jobs” at the top of those corporates, if the whiff is to be believed. No wonder those corporates misbehave.