Orange Hellfire

Since we now have access to an excellent Fibre WiFi service throughout the entire apartment, and even out on the terrace, you might imagine that everything was tickety boo. Sadly, that’s not the case. We’re still suffering from one small problem, the billing. Specifically the billing of a once-dormant line that was accidentally activated by an over enthusiastic assistant at our local Orange shop. That’s right, almost a year after the event, we’re still trying to get Orange to correct an error that one of their staff made which is turning into my very own Groundhog Day hell.

You may have read that late last year the former CEO and other executives of France’s Orange internet provider and telecoms firm were found guilty of a string of employee suicides at the company. The trial marked the first time that a big company had been tried on a charge of “collective moral harassment”  – France is one of only a few countries in the world where an institution or a company can be prosecuted for such an offense. No mention was made of whether the CEO and other executives had been held responsible for the suicides of any of their customers!

I recently received a very politely worded reminder from the Head of Customer Services at Orange enquiring whether I had overlooked payment of an outstanding invoice. Now, I appreciate that such correspondence is automatically generated. No, I had not simply forgotten to pay the invoice. I have no intention of paying it. Let me explain why.

In April of last year, we switched over from Broadband to Fibre. Unbeknown to us, our assistant at Orange in Cap 3000 reanimated our old facsimile number, cancelled more than 10 years ago. We most certainly did not ask him to do this.

The first we knew of this error was when we received an invoice in the mail – all our invoices are received via email – in early October of last year for the period April – October. I firstly approached the same assistant at Orange Cap 3000 who advised me that there was nothing he could do and that I should write to Customer Services. At this point, I did not know that it was he who had made the mistake. I duly wrote and received a reply advising I should ring their Customer Services Help Desk, a number which can only be rung from inside France.

Due to our respective travel commitments outside of France, I rang them at the first opportunity and finally spoke to one of their call centre staff. This was after spending some time going through the usual rigmarole of pressing various buttons and responding to certain automated questions. This process can take as little as 10 minutes but woe betide if you give the wrong response. It’s a case of “Do not Pass Go, Do Not Collect €200 and Go Straight Back to the Start.”

At this point, I did not know why the number had been reanimated so, as a precaution, I paid the invoice having been advised that if it was an error I would receive a refund. I wanted to check with the team at Parnasse (the part of Orange that had fitted our Fibre service) to check that they had not used the line in some way to facilitate our access to Fibre.

We continued to receive invoices and meanwhile, Parnasse confirmed that they had not used or reanimated the line in any way. In November, I once again contacted Customer Services. The person I eventually spoke with confirmed that the line had not been used at all and that it had been .reanimated by the chap at Orange Cap 3000. He was immediately struck off my Xmas card list. The line would be cancelled forthwith and a telephonic rendez vous  organised whereby someone from Customer Refunds would call me on a given day and time to organise a refund and the cancellation of the outstanding invoices. No one, but no one from Orange telephoned us!

On receipt of January’s invoice, I rang again and spoke to yet another helpful call centre operator and she confirmed that the line (and invoicing) had now been cancelled. Once again, a date was established whereby Customer Refunds would telephone me. Once again, no one from Orange contacted us.

You can therefore perhaps appreciate my frustration when we received yet another invoice swiftly followed by the reminder from the Head of Customer Relations to which I have responded in some detail. I am hoping (possibly in vain) that my letter explaining the situation will finally resolve this long-standing issue which stems from an error on the part of one of Orange’s own employees. I am not holding my breath – watch this space!



My ongoing Fibre saga

Cue party hats and balloons! It’s been a long and tortuous process with many a false start but finally, yes finally, we received confirmation that Fibre was available in the Domaine.

Overcome with excitement, we made an appointment at our local Cap 3000 Orange shop and found a(nother) very helpful assistant. In only two hours, we had our new iPhones, a new contract and an appointment for Fibre to be connected. We were happy bunnies!

We’d chosen the first available date for the installation, Good Friday – not a Bank Holiday in France. We’d opted for the 08:00 – 11:00 am slot. Not that we were expecting anyone at 08:00, we knew the engineer would have to deal with any emergencies first, and assumed he’d arrive around 11:00.

I’d already confirmed the appointment, twice, but started to get twitchy as 11:00 approached and passed. I received a call from Orange Ground Control, our technician would be with us shortly. However, they were unable to define how long was « shortly ». Evidently, our lone technician was having a particularly taxing morning but would be with us soon.

Just before midday he rang to say he’d be with us after lunch ie at 14:00. He arrived on the dot of 14:00 and ferreted around in the cupboard on our communal landing to feed through the fibre cable to the office. It was relatively easy to feed the cable through to the entrance hall but no further. No, that’s not true. It would go further but it wouldn’t go to our chosen destination. I even had him try it in reverse ie from the office out, but to no avail. He left us empty handed and Fibreless.

Of course, we had hoped Orange might send us the engineer who had fitted our WiFi extenders, but no, it wasn’t him. Instead, this one kept telling us that he didn’t know how to connect them up to the Fibre service. Not particularly auspicious as I’d advised about the extenders and even named the technician who’d fitted them when we’d made the appointment. I then had the job of explaining to Orange Ground Control why Fibre had failed us.

Luckily, I still had another trick up my sleeve. I contacted the business branch of Orange responsible for fitting the WiFi extenders and explained my dilemma in detail. An inspection visit was booked and within what seemed like next to no time this engineer had correctly identified the problem and come up with two solutions. It appeared that our electician, as a short cut, had run the telephone line through the same channel as the electricity cable, an ill-advised move. Although it was possible to feed the Fibre cable through the same conduit, the presence of the electric current would probably interfere with the Fibre service, meaning it would be a sub-optimal solution.

The alternative, and naturally more expensive one, relied upon the Fibre and Liveboxes, plus another extender, sitting discretely behind the storage in the entrance hall, feeding left and right to my existing extenders. This solution has the added advantage of giving me WiFi throughout the entire apartment and Orange TV and CANAL Plus to both televisions. It was a win-win all round!


Fibre Frustration

In our town we live just about as far as you can get from the Orange internet connection consequently our unlimited broadband service has its limitations. For example, when we watch television over the internet it uses most of our available capacity so the laptops and iPads grind exceedingly slow, if at all.

In addition, I believe I may have mentioned that our WiFi service, thanks to our reinforced concrete walls, barely extends beyond the office. Two, recently fitted, very expensive, top-of-the-range, all singing all dancing extenders mean we now have greater coverage but not, of course, if we’re also watching the television.

We have patiently been waiting the arrival of the panacea for all our internet woes – FIBRE. Again, we seem to be the last people scheduled to get it in our town. Everyone else we know has got it. There was a brief flurry of excitement before Christmas, when a notice from Orange on the front door of the building announced the arrival of FIBRE and advising the work would be completed in a few days. Hallelujah!

Quicker than a rat up a drainpipe, I’d booked us an appointment with the Orange Pro advisor at the Cap 3000 shopping centre. We could barely contain our excitement – I know we need to get out more!

Our hopes were cruelly dashed. Yes, there is now a FIBRE connection to our building but it’ll be another six months until we can finally access the service. It appears that they first have to negotiate with the other internet providers to the building and connect them.

What’s the point in being Orange throughout, if everyone else then gets preference? No one could provide a satisfactory response to my question. Maybe they thought I was being rhetorical?

To make matters worse, Orange keep rubbing salt into the wound by emailing us weekly telling us FIBRE will soon be with us. Sadly, just not soon enough!

Orange bliss

After our recent  successful trip to Orange in Cap 3000, we now have a fully functioning LiveBox with service restored to its former glory, new iPhones and a smaller monthly bill. I call that a result. Or I would, if it were not for the chaos which ensued exactly one week later.

I had woken feeling very unwell the day before we were to leave for San Sebastian. I decided I was going to take it easy and emailed our friendly car service to ask if he could collect my beloved from the airport. I sent him an email telling him it would be Christoph, not me, picking him up. He didn’t respond, but that’s not unusual.

After a day spent resting and sipping water, I was feeling better though not wholly restored. Christophe rang just before 17:00 to say unfortunately he couldn’t collect my beloved. I said not to worry, I was feeling better and I’d do it myself. I messaged Richard with the change in arrangements.  His plane was due in from London City at 19:20. I knew traffic would be bad en route and left at 18:45, hoping to sweep in, pick him up and head back home.

He’ll typically message me when he lands. I checked my phone, no message and, for some reason, no service on my phone! While circling the airport, I managed to reboot it but it made no difference. After circling for 30 minutes, I concluded my beloved had seen only my first message and had gotten a taxi. I drove home, but there was no sign of him. I rang him from the fixed line, no service on his mobile. So he was having similar problems. Thirty minutes later, I was about to call BA to check whether he’d been on the flight, when he arrived back by taxi.

The plane door had jammed, so it had taken 45 minutes just to get off the plane, plus another 15  minutes to get through the terminal to our usual pick up point. He’d waited 10 minutes then gotten a taxi. He too had no mobile service. It appeared that both phones had been cut off at the same time. I tried in vain to contact Orange but no one was home or, if they were, they were constantly engaged! We were leaving for Spain at 05:30 the following morning so would need to contact Orange on our arrival.

Once we were settled into our hotel, I had managed to find a telephone number for the Orange store in Cap 3000 and we tried to ring them on Skype, but no luck. I had found the Facebook page and Twitter handle for the shop, so sent them messages – no immediate response!

Meanwhile, my exasperated beloved had decided to engage with the Orange chat line. The first person he contacted promised our service would be restored within a couple of hours. It wasn’t. We couldn’t contact anyone the following morning as, horror of horrors, the internet had gone down in the whole of San Sebastian.

Once WiFi was restored, my beloved was chatting once more to the Orange help line, a chap called Valentin who, after 20 minutes of emailing back and forth, told my beloved he needed to contact the business help line and promptly disconnected! I wouldn’t have minded but he had asked upfront which type of service we had and my beloved had advised him we were business customers.

Undeterred, though by now muttering under his breath, my beloved located and logged into the business help line only to discover it demanded tons of information on the company which we don’t usually carry around with us. However, I knew I’d provided that information by email recently and was able to retrieve it. We were back in the game!

Or were we? My beloved kept getting logged out of the system. Eventually he got through to someone who suggested we go down to our local Orange shop. Did he not read the bit where my beloved explained we were in Spain and had indeed popped into the local Orange shop. No queue and the staff were extremely helpful but, after checking both our phones, had advised someone back at HQ in France had cut off our service although they didn’t know why. Sadly, Orange Spain is a completely different legal entity (so much for EU) and they couldn’t assist us further. They would have been happy to call the French help line for us but could only make local calls from the shop.

After lunch, I discovered I’d received a reply from Orange at Cap 3000 from the lady who’d set us up. She had sent me her mobile no. so we could call her. We did so on Skype and she asked us if we’d changed over our SIM cards? The penny dropped. She had said we’d have to do this but I’d assumed the technician had done it down at the shop when we’d left him with our old phones, passwords etc to change everything over. My beloved had gone back down to fetch everything on his own so I hadn’t checked – rookie error!

As a result of an error on our part, we’d incurred a taxi bill of 45 Euros and lost several hours of our life, which we’d never get back. On the plus side, I now have the email address and mobile phone no. of the most helpful person I have ever met at Orange. Plus, the six days no one could get hold of us on the phone were otherwise pretty blissful, maybe we should do it more often!