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France - mobile data - a cautionary tale


Hughmer

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The troble with smart phones is they're addictive. In 6 monhs I've got very used to receiving emails on the hoof, having regular weather & financial updates, using GPS, googling everything , comparing prices with bar codes & QR codes, and just about everything else.

 

So plans for 3-5 months touring Europe involved how to buy cheap data. You can immediately rule out roaming with any UK phone provider. We all know that .There are Firms based in the UK that profess to offer cheaper roaming data. True but not that cheap.

 

As a starting point, I was relying on experience in NZ & Oz where it's about £30/month for 2 or 3 hundred mins of calls & 500mb -1gb of data. Dead easy to set up.Just walk in to Dick Smiths or even Woolworths and buy a card - stick it in and off you go

 

So I expored how to buy a sim from a French network. The one that suited me best was Orange "Origami Star" at just under €30/ 30 days with no commitment beyond that period. BUT I need a French address and bank account to set it up

 

Enter stage left my chum who lives near Niort. Willing to help. And off we go to Darty (The Currys of France) on 5 July. My chum speaks good French, - me not bad but not brilliant.

 

The first sign of trouble ahead was when the vendeuse "Sarah" rang Orange to ask if the sim card would work in my Samsung Galaxy "W". They'd never heard of that model. We should have walked then, --- but pressed on.

 

We were quite clear and Sarah understood that we wanted to buy the card on a "sans engagement (no contract)" deal. Even so we still had to set up payment from chum's bank by Direct debit. (also a bit worrying) . You have to ask, if this is a fixed time one off contract where calls and data finish when the limit is reached, why do you need to set up a direct debit....?

 

We plugged the SiM card in. Sarah made the call to activate it. Phone signal yes. Data no. She rang Orange. We now spend more than 30 mins waching Sarah on the phone to Orange and glean that she has not set up a "sans engagement" after all. She has in fact committed us to a 12 month contract. This is news to her as well as us and she is a bit embarrassed. She persuadesd Orange to cancel the original agreement and gets a new number that she writes carefully on the paperwork (all 12 sheets)

 

Still no Data....It may take an hour or so said the cheerful Sarah, but there was nothing by late afternoon so back to Darty to confront her.

 

She rang Orange. We went through all the normal Q&A's Yes the phone was unlocked yes Orange was showing as the network, yes packet data was selected, yes this yes that. Then after about 15 mins of this the techy at Orange said "well it always takes 72 hours to kick in. (thats 10% of the time I've bought in case you weren't paying attention)

 

So 72 hours would take us to Sunday 8th but I had to fly back to the UK unexpectedly and returned to Niort on 11 Jul. Still no Data signal, - so once more to Darty and more time with Sarah. Now we learn that Data is enabled on the card. It works in another phone - a galaxy Ace. So we jointly agree that it must be something to do with the fact that Orange don't have the settings for the Galaxy W and as it won't work we wish to cancel the agreement.

 

With reference to the paperwork... The new contract number that Sarah elicited from Orange does not appear to have been registered on their system..... Oh!

 

Now whereas you or I might say I don't give a monkey's what sort of contract it it, the effing thing does not work and I want to cancel the contract, it is not so simple in France. Sarah looks apologetic and we watch as she spends the next 30 minutes trying to cancel the original contract and restart the second contract...... so that she can .... er.... cancel that one too!

 

She succeeds and I am told to expect an SMS sometime in the next 15 days...! Afterwards I must phone a number to confirm cancellation. Why our physical presence in the shop is not enough to confirm that we wish to cancel is not enough I don't know ... but hey... this is France.

 

15 days is this Thursday, but ahead of that Orange have sent my chum a bill for an arrears period to the 16 Jul and an advance period to 15 August. What these dates have to do with our original appearance at Darty are a complete mystery but at least it propted the appearance of a number at Orange for me to ring.

 

So I did, - this morning. All the above seems to be recorded on the sysytem and they can't undestand what 'as 'appened, - but they are now going to cancel the contract.

 

It may take a further 7 days.

 

They also promised to cancel the bill. How long that will take remains to be seen.

 

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Have used pay-as-u-go via orange all over europe for several years. No contract involved and no finance so no hassle setting it up.If a friendly european neighbour nicks it out of ones pocket or it goes missing just forget it and get another - low hassle option.
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Retread24800 - 2012-07-24 11:19 PMI have been using my unblocked mobile on Formule mini from E leclerc, internet illimité from €9.90 p.m PAYG.

 Without the internet option I keep all my unused credit, which is unusual for a French PAYG mobile but there is a €1.50 pm charge

My interest was in obtaining cheap data. The Origami star tarriff "looked" good at 1Gb for €30/monthI checked out the formula mini and if I read it right 1 gb of data would cost €390. is that your understanding?
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Carphone Wharehouse - bought the pag phone + SIM as package. Don't know why but Orange works well in Europe whereas I know from talking to other campers that they have had trouble with other networks. I have got to the minimalist stage mainly - between you and me - because my wife gets more paranoid as she gets older and as a luddite she worries about all these high tech gadgets getting pinched etc. We have survived 2 mugging attempts in Barcelona without loss so I understand her concerns. Why am I telling you all this!!!.....Best of luck
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Hughmer - 2012-07-25 10:20 AM
Retread24800 - 2012-07-24 11:19 PMI have been using my unblocked mobile on Formule mini from E leclerc, internet illimité from €9.90 p.m PAYG.

 Without the internet option I keep all my unused credit, which is unusual for a French PAYG mobile but there is a €1.50 pm charge

My interest was in obtaining cheap data. The Origami star tarriff "looked" good at 1Gb for €30/monthI checked out the formula mini and if I read it right 1 gb of data would cost €390. is that your understanding?

 

If you failed to take out the option 'Internet illimité' you would be right but with this option activated you could get 250 Mb per month for €9.90 or 500 for €13 or so . this contract is on a month by month basis, you can hop into and out of the internet charge as you will. My information is that 500Go from Orange will cost you €39pm on a 24 month fixed contract.

Caveat etc.

 

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Shady - 2012-07-25 7:54 PM

 

Carphone Wharehouse - bought the pag phone + SIM as package.

 

I was alarmed at Orange' s DATA roaming rates especially on PAYG, so I will be interested to hear more about your tarriff.

 

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The L'Eclerc deal seems pretty good, If it works on my phone. IF the Orange SIM HAD WORKED in my phone the Origami Star package would have been the cheapest as I intended to use it. It was "sans engagement" effectively PAYG €29.90 for 1Go Data and 2hrs of calls (and '000s of texts)

 

The cautionary tale is really about DARTY making a real cockup of the contract and the incompatibility of the Orange SIM with a Galaxy W

 

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Have also discovered that many French supermarkets as well as restaurants have free WIFI.

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SANS Engagement (mostly) in France with the main networks (Orange / SFR / Bouges) is not the same as PAYG in the UK.

 

In effect you sign a rolling contract where they will take a fixed amount from a French bank account every month until you send a cancellation by recorded mail to stop it. You can stop it at any time -even after one month.

 

Some of the MVNO's (e.g. supermarkets) have deals that aren't so restrictive.

 

Sadly France is a pain from the mobile data perspective - a large land mass country, only three operators with a cosy relationship - makes for high prices.

 

We (based in France) have travelled over recent years in Spain Morocco Italy Greece and Germany as well as UK and in all these countries have secured PAYG internet access at less than €30 / month.

 

 

 

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ian81 - 2012-07-26 10:20 AM

 

SANS Engagement .../... they will take a fixed amount from a French bank account every month until you send a cancellation by recorded mail to stop it.

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I wish Darty had explained the recorded delivery bit! It might have made life easier..

 

I'd be interested to hear your take on our difficulty when the DATA just didn't appear. We sought to cancel immediately (well 5 days after signing) but even though the Orange system didn't work we are having all sorts of hassle getting the deal "annulled".

 

In the UK if something doesn't work, you take it back and get a refund. In this case we are having to wait for a month or so to cancel a contract and Orange's take on it seems to be that it's just us that wants to cancel - they don't appear to appreciate the reason why we want to do so - i.e. the failure of their system

 

Fortunately as of this morining I think we have now cancelled and expect the signal to go dead on 3 August

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ian81 - 2012-07-26 10:20 AM.../... Spain Morocco Italy Greece and Germany as well as UK and in all these countries have secured PAYG internet access at less than €30 / month.

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Do tell.. from which shops have you bought data sims in these countries?

 

 

 

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IMHO Orange is a nightmare organisation to deal with. My French is reasonable but I find them intolerant of anybody who isn't FLUENT in French. My advice is when in France use WiFi at McD's or large supermarket cafes such as Flunch.

 

Look at http://www.ariase.com/ (french) -it includes information on current best deals. Also you can send electronically from that site a suitable cancellation letter (Lettre de résiliation)

 

As to other countries my advice is to research before going as things change rapidly.

 

Last winter we bought a Wind SIM in Greece €30 / month PAYG and in 2010/11 a WIND SIM in Italy. Germany we have a LIDL sim. Morocco with the main incumbent -forget name and Spain have forgotten.

 

When going into a shop in these countries take a passport and have a local address prepared -e.g. hotel for the registration process. I also usually ask them to make sure that the SIM is registered -often they place in their phone. Finally before leaving the location / area of the shop insert the SIM and make sure it works!! You may have to be prepared to hang around for a couple of hours!! Any problems you can then return to the shop -as I did first time in Spain when it didn't work and got my money back!!

 

Also be sure of the top up procedure -usually by buying a voucher and sending a text message from the dongle software. (Beware in Greece top ups for data are different from top ups for phones!)

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It is true organising internet use in France can be difficult. This trip we are giving Vodaphone Euro Traveller a go. For £3 a day you can use all your U.K. contracted mins, text and data. This gives us 500 Mg/month data plus incoming calls/texts are free even on days you do not initiate the daily charge. This has been good for phone calls, but not so good for data as often found that band width not good enough for Skype. To be honest still find best is to pick up wi-fi from macdoes, cafes, bars etc. Often find that Tourist information offices are a good start point; indeed many now offer wi-fi and in many cases it is free. (Sending this on aire at Chateau Thierry, sat outside van,in shade as temp over 30C, using wi-fi from the said burger chain!)
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robertandjean

 

Vodaphone Euro Traveller. For £3 a day you can use all your U.K. contracted mins, text and data. This gives us 500 Mg/month data plus incoming calls/texts are free

 

Euro Traveller was one of the more attractive UK based options we explored before leaving. BUT you have to be on contract with Vodafone to get it. The minimum contract available at the time was for 90 days @£10.50/month.

 

The other options we considered were all available only to contract users and I'll precis them below

 

Forgive me if I ignore the calls & Texts, I was only interested in data because I make so few calls within state or back to UK, my ordinary Virgin deal at normal Euro Rates is not a real burden

 

Network 3

Min contract 30 days @£10

Data cost £5 / day when used: Up to 1Gb included

 

TMobile:

Min PAYG contract 90 days @ £10/month includes no roaming data

with 18 monh contract roaming dat costs are

3mb over 24 hour @£1 (that's just enough to log on to hotmail!)

20 mb over 7 days @ £5 (that's about 30 mins average browsing)

50 mb over 30 days @ £10

 

Orange (UK)

Min contract 30 day rolling contract @ £10

then buy "bundles"

Those available were

£3 for 30mb to be used in one day

£15 for 30 mb to be used in one month (I know I could do 30mb in less than an hour)

 

O2

Ha Hahahaha. HaHaHaHa Ha Ha Ha Ha I think this firm has a long way to go and why anyone would use them as a provider in the UK let alone considering a Euro option is beyond me.

 

 

 

 

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