In 2012, Afutt (the French association for telcoms users) registered a record number of official complaints from subscribers about their mobile service. Although mobile contracts are getting cheaper and cheaper thanks to newbie Free Mobile as well as the incumbents who’ve been playing catch-up, consumers don’t look to any happier with their mobile services. In fact, last year there was a 21% jump in consumer complaints linked to mobile services.
Since Afutt started tracking all complaints related to telecom in 2007, they’ve witnessed an acceleration in the amount of complaints linked to mobile services, which now stand at 64% of all telco complaints vs 28% for internet and 8% for fixed lines. They believe that the advent of low-cost services may, in fact, be working against telcos because it’s in fact making consumers more demanding overall. I personally see it as a good thing that in a market that was so highly concentrated and monopolized for so long, the power finally seems to be shifting to consumers. However, I can see how the telcos, particularly the old-guard, wouldn’t exactly welcome this mini-revolution.
As the largest mobile operator in France, Orange, looks to be the one suffering most on this front as they currently account for 24% of all complaints with SFR just behind at 21%. In the next tier, standing at approx 18%, 18%, and 16% respectively are Bouygues, MVNO (mobile virtual network operators – eg Virgin, Debitel, etc), and Free. As for what people are complaining about, billing (19%), quality and service reliability (11%), and contract cancellation problems (by the user – 11%) round out the top three types of complaints.
As mobile providers continue to invest in adding services that they believe consumers most want, maybe they should first go back to basics a bit and work on improving the simple stuff first. Perhaps Free’s approach which attempts to tackle the price issue first is the right one. Case in point, their announcement last Friday that they’d be added the ability to call while abroad to their 2€ mobile plan. The international calling is a nice add, but even more important is that the pricing is clear and it won’t cost users a fortune.
You can check-out their full report here.