Free mobile network sued for fraud

A French consumer group is suing mobile phone operator Free, accusing it of “fraudulent commercial practices” over the quality of its network.

When Free set up in France around a year ago it shook up the mobile market in France by offering cheap monthly rates without the need for customers to sign up to long term contracts.

But consumer group UFC-Que Choisir believes Free’s 3G roaming service is not up to scratch and certainly not as good as the company makes out to its customers.

After carrying out a series of tests in Lille and around Paris the watchdog found it was nearly impossible to watch a YouTube video, listen to music online or download applications when using the 3G roaming.

When the same tests were carried out for France’s other networks, SFR, Orange and Bouygues Telecom there were far fewer problems.

“The difference between what they promise and the reality shocked us,” said the group’s president Alain Bazot in French daily Le Parisien.

Because Free’s network does not yet cover the whole of France, the company gets around this by renting part of the Orange network.

It is not the first time the company has ended up in hot water over the quality of its service. In November last year telecom regulator (ARCEP) highlighted Free’s “relatively poor performance for applications like web browsing and watching videos online”.

The network came out fighting this week pointing to its success in France.

“You don’t get 5 million subscribers unless the service is of the highest standard, above all our no-contract deals,” the company’s boss Xavier Niel told Le Figaro newspaper.

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