Telecoms: more than a quarter of operators have questionable business practices

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Telecoms: more than a quarter of operators have questionable business practices

Telecom operators do not always respect the legal framework. Unclear offers, false promotions, breaches of the rules of distance selling … the Directorate General for competition, consumption and fraud prevention (DGCCRF) pins the profession. According to the survey she conducted in 2021 with 42 establishments, more than a quarter of them presented an anomaly (28.6%).

The principle of the hidden subscription

Among the misleading and abusive practices, the fraud repression points the finger at “the offers presented as limited in time, while they are systematically renewed”. The principle is simple. The operator offers subscription offers at advantageous prices while indicating that they have a limited lifespan, “by displaying, for example, a countdown timer to encourage consumers to subscribe quickly. “In reality, these offers follow one another at short intervals or overlap to lead to a permanent offer that lures the consumer. »

Another common deception: the hidden subscription. The consumer sees the amount of his telephone bill increase after the unwanted subscription to one of the services associated with his telephony offer such as an online music listening service or replay videos. The DGCCRF has received 90 complaints addressed against the same company which publishes this type of services accessible from a smartphone or a computer.

Telecoms, favorable breeding ground for disputes

At the end of these checks, the fraud repression drew up two administrative injunctions, three criminal reports and an administrative report for misleading or abusive commercial practices, in particular for renewal of offers beyond the announced deadlines.

In the least serious cases, the investigators showed pedagogy by sending seven warnings to remind professionals of the law, in particular with regard to breaches of the general conditions of sale, and in particular those relating to distance selling.

The telecom sector is particularly attracting the attention of the DGCCRF, given the important place that telephony and the internet hold in the daily life of the French. “The dynamism, innovation and strong competition in this sector favor a frequent renewal of offers and sales methods, notes the fraud repression. »

“However, some actors may seek an advantage over their competitors by breaking free from consumer protection rules or by resorting to unfair commercial practices,” tackles the fraud crackdown.

Without giving the names of the companies at fault, the DGCCRF indicates that “small and medium-sized alternative operators often ignore many of the obligations incumbent on electronic communications providers. Small structures also have difficulties in applying the regulations for distance selling and sales outside a commercial establishment. »

More than 5,000 complaints in a year

Of the 5,026 consumer complaints received, in 2021, by the services of the DGCCRF, a significant part related to abuses concerning contractual and tariff modifications that cannot be refused by customers. According to the latest report from the Electronic Communications Mediation, the main disputes relate to the contract (22%), invoicing (17%) and termination conditions (17%).

The legal framework can sometimes argue in favor of operators. According to Article L. 224-33 of the Consumer Code, a consumer can only accept the modifications made to his contract by his operator as long as they are clear and that he is notified at least one month in advance. However, he can simply terminate his contract without charge.

Promulgated in 2021, the year of the controls, the European Electronic Communications Code (CCEE), on the other hand, improves the rights of consumers in terms of pre-contractual information. They receive a “contractual summary” when subscribing to an offer. The cancellation conditions must, for their part, be accessible without the subscriber needing to contact his provider.

The European regulation regulates the group sale of equipment and services or the return of equipment at the end of a subscription. It also provides for compensation mechanisms in the event of delay or abuse in porting the telephone number and changing suppliers as well as in the event that an installer does not honor an appointment with the customer.

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