Save money when you’re not at your French property by suspending your telephone line – Bob Elliot explains how

French Property News – Cutting Connections

Save money when you’re not at your French property by suspending your telephone line – Bob Elliot explains how

France is unusual in having a high number of second homes, which has created some special offers for holiday home owners who don’t want to pay all you round for telephone services that may only be used for perhaps a few months at a time.

The national network in France is owned and managed by Orange who, until recently, has benefited from its monopoly position by being able to exclusively offer customers the ability to suspend both their line rental and broadband services, if they can demonstrate that the property is not their main residence – a utility bill or council tax statement is sufficient proof. The main home doesn’t have to be in France.

Once proven, the customers can request that their line rental and – if they take the service – broadband, be suspended while they are away. During periods of absence and suspension of the broadband service, the modem must be returned to an Orange shop and collected on return.

This is no longer the only offer available. At UK Telecom we wanted to provide another choice based on the feedback of our customers, 25% of whom are second home owners. One important difference is we offer the ability to suspend services to all customers, not just second home owners.

There are two alternatives available. Firstly, customers on a Dégroupage Partiel service (where calls are carried over the line and broadband sits separately on it) can suspend their broadband, but not their line rental, while those with the Dégroupage Total (where the telephone line’s voice service is deactivated, and calls over the broadband service) can suspend their broadband contract contract while incurring a charge of €5 per month as there is no line rental to pay.

The period of suspension is limited to a maximum of four months in any 12-month period, so it’s not as flexible as the Orange offer but more convenient, as the suspension of both types of service does not require the return of the modem and the changes are managed remotely.

There is an alternative to the usual broadband service if your requirements are not high or are infrequent. Several companies offer a wifi hotspot device that connects to the internet via the mobile network; this small box allows up to nine devices to connect to the internet at the same time.

Obviously you need to be in an area with a good mobile signal, which you can check by visiting Insert your holiday home’s location and then the mobile service you want to use, and it will tell you if the signal is good enough.

Do remember that hotspots come with a 1Gb data package that is valid for 90 days. The data can be topped up via an English-language website and packages range from 500Mb, valid for 14 days and costing €7, to 100Gb, valid for 30 days and costing €99.

Top Tip

It is good practice to disconnect your telephone handset and modem if you are going to be away for any length of time. This is because storms often cause electrical power surges that can damage equipment and your broadband provider will not replace modems damaged in this way free of charge.

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Bob Elliott reveals how the speed of your broadband can be just as important as comfortable beds and beautiful views when it comes to securing repeat bookings at your gîte

Q: How can you maximise bookings in France’s very competitive gîte and holiday home market?

Each year the advice regarding broadband seems to change. Once access became more widely available, there was a huge interest in gîte owners wanting/needing a good website to promote the uniqueness of their property. Since then, things have moved on, with access to reliable broadband in holiday properties now an essential requirement for many.

Sending postcards that arrive after your holiday is over cannot compete with Facetime, Skype and instant messaging. Now guests expect to be able to use their favourite devices like iPads and Kindles, while sending photos from mobiles using the gîte’s wi-fi, so not using up all of their data allowance.

The large investment being made in the French telecoms network is bringing better broadband to more holiday properties and is reflected in the way they are marketed. However, with Saturday being the usual changeover day, any problems visitors experience connecting to the broadband service can be complicated by the fact that most telecoms offices are closed at the weekend, with engineers only working Monday to Friday. Add to this situations where property owners are not on hand to assist with getting connected, and the result can be a poor start to your guests’ holiday.

Recommendations and repeat bookings can suffer as a result of network difficulties.

Q: What can you do to get guests’ holidays off to the best start?

As soon as your guests have unpacked, you can be sure they will want to let everybody know they have arrived safely, and post photos of themselves in their holiday home online! Any problems getting connected will create a poor first impression.

To guard against this, prepare a separate page for your information pack giving more details than just the wi-fi code. Make sure you include the name of the network provider as well. Remind guests that wi-fi codes are case sensitive and often simply mistaking a numeral ‘0’ for a letter ‘o’ can prevent connection. If guests still have problems, which is unusual but should be noted if experienced, they will want help, which might be difficult if you don’t live nearby or have little technical know-how.

A few telecoms firms offer a bilingual French/English customer service that might suit your situation. It’s also worth considering a company that will suspend your service when the property is not occupied to save you money.

Q: What if internet issues cannot be resolved remotely and you are not in the country?

In this case, you will need to provide the contact details for your broadband supplier plus the phone number and your account number so your guests can access help. It’s possible that an issue may arise that is not resolvable remotely, so you will need to provide contact details for yourself or someone nearby who can meet an engineer and go to your property to investigate. Your guests will not want to wait in for help to come while they should be enjoying their holiday.

A simple addition to your ‘changeover tick list’ to check that the wi-fi connection is working, plus the previously mentioned ‘help sheet’ – including the broadband service name and wi-fi code, together with the help number – should mitigate many issues.

While things can go wrong, most problems can be fixed relatively painlessly and quickly.

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The Need For Speed – New government investment could make slow internet access a thing of the past in France

The Need For Speed – New government investment could make slow internet access a thing of the past in France


New government investment could make slow internet access a thing of the past in France, which is good news for homeowners, as Bob Elliott explains

It seems that broadband has never been more important whether you’re moving to or within France, so it pays to find out what service you can get before you commit to  a property purchase.

With the steady move towards shopping and banking online, and keeping in touch with those close to you through Skype and social media, many people feel totally cut off without what is a relatively new means of communication.

Making sure you are house-hunting in areas where there is a broadband service that will meet your minimum needs is quite easy, but first you need to decide if you want to limit yourself to web browsing and emails, or if you want to watch videos and TV programmes. The slowest speed that you will see is 0.5Mbps, which is poor and unreliable at peak times of internet use as all domestic services are ‘contended’, meaning that you share access with others locally. For those with basic requirements, a minimum speed of 1Mbps is all that is needed. However we have seen a dramatic increase in the demand for ever faster broadband, and if a home does not have this it will impact on its value.


Checking broadband speed is easy (providing you have access to the internet). When trying to narrow down your property search area, the website shows general broadband coverage for anywhere in France. If you’ve found a house you want to buy, go to and enter the number of the telephone line at the property and you will get an accurate speed indication. If there is no telephone line installed, you can enter the number of the nearest property. It will not be completely accurate but will give a good indication of what you can expect.

The results of these tests may be disappointing, especially if you are searching in rural areas where there are longer distances between properties and the local exchange. This year is likely to see some big changes in areas where speeds are slower because from late 2018, all telecom companies will no longer be able to offer the standard line rental and broadband service, and all calls will go over the broadband service. All telecom companies are given advanced notice of when a local exchange is going to be upgraded, so before striking a property off your list, do check with your preferred provider to see if the service is going to be improved soon.


The speed available depends on the distance between the local exchange and the property. Much of the equipment in these exchanges is 40 years old and simply not appropriate for today’s and tomorrow’s needs. To address this, in 2013 the French government announced a plan to roll out high-speed internet, réseau très haut débit (THD), across the whole of France by 2022, and President Macron has said that he wants this deadline to be brought forward to 2020.

However, a survey by consumer group UFC Que Choisir has estimated that the roll-out is at least 10 years behind schedule and that full implementation of the programme will not be achieved until 2035. As the roll-out of this investment is starting with larger towns with government buildings, hospitals, schools, etc, rural areas will be the last to benefit.

The major upgrade of the national network will see changes affecting larger towns first, then smaller ones with fibre connections becoming available but at a higher cost. With seven and a half million homes in France unable to access high-speed internet, these improvements cannot come soon enough. There will also be upgrades of local exchanges that will continue until 2022, with faster broadband being made available to many, however small and rural communes may not benefit.

One possible solution will be to bring faster speed to rural areas by linking their telephone and broadband services to the mobile network, which may be possible due to the big investment in the 3G and 4G networks. Trials are also being held in five major French towns to develop the 5G network but this may not become available to rural areas for some time.

From 2019 it will not be possible to order a new analogue telephone line and all calls will be carried by the broadband service. Where the line speed is too slow to carry broadband, some companies will carry the service via a SIM on the mobile network while keeping 90% of the fixed line functions. By 2022 all existing analogue lines will be converted to the new service. Others have yet to advise on their solutions.

So, if you are already connected you may wish to contact your telecom company and ask if you can be upgraded now, and if not, when the improved service will become available in your area. Telecom providers all have advanced information about these changes before it becomes publicly available, so it is worth checking. Nothing is more certain than that there will be big changes in the services available over the next three years, so do make sure that you don’t miss out.

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How to choose your telecoms provider in France

How to choose your telecoms provider in France

Are you about to complete your house purchase and facing setting up the utilities? Good telecom services are more important than ever, and getting the best in terms of broadband, prices and services and customer care will be important. How can you choose the best?

National network

In France the national network is owned by Orange (formerly known as France Telecom) but competitors including SFR, Free and UK Telecom have equal access and line maintenance support from sub-contract engineers appointed by Orange on a regional basis.

With the local exchanges and lines maintained by the same people you can narrow your choices down to price, customer care and services without being at risk of a lesser service by not using Orange. For all practical purposes your only contact with your supplier is if there is a problem between your local exchange and your property and matters with your account.

Bundles and extras

All the main French companies have products that are bundled to appeal to the French market which has a different call pattern made by the average customer and certainly few if any calls to overseas non-geographic marketing numbers used by banks, insurance companies etc. You are likely to pay more for calls outside of an unlimited call package than if you used an expat specialist company.

Customer service

You may notice that there is less competition in France. This can make broadband services more expensive than the rates you are used to paying in your country, as in the UK, for example. However when something fails getting technical support in English can be a big advantage and speed up the process of getting live again. Fault solving can take time and whilst all companies offer a free number to call, once you are connected you could be made to pay a premium rate per minute for your call , as is the case for Orange customers. When you chose your telecom provider, look for a company that offers support in English and a free number for the whole of the call. This is an indication of a strong emphasis on customer care and support.

One other important advantage of using an expat specialist are the free additional services that are not available from the French companies. UK Telecom offers the all these:

• Good, honest and knowledgeable advice

• A free survey of broadband availability in your search area and property of interest before you


• Management of your line installation/set-up, including a low cost number for friends and family in the UK to call you

• You can pay invoices in £s or ‚¬s

• Free access to UK catch-up TV and other services for all broadband customers

• Free unlimited technical support


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When your telephone or broadband stop working

When your telephone or broadband stop working

Im sure youll agree with me that there is never a good time for your telephone or broadband to stop working. We have come a long way in recent years in how we use telephones and broadband services. Many phone calls are replaced with Skype calls, mobile apps and emails. Broadband has long ceased to be a simple tool to find information, with buying and selling a major activity.

High speeds and new software allow many of us to work from home or be based in two locations, and wifi allows mobiles to be used to make low-cost calls to most destinations. No wonder we feel cut off from the world when there is a fault with our service.

Get it fixed quickly

Our first instinct is to call our providers support line to get it fixed but we often forget that there could be problems within our homes causing the loss of service. If these are not investigated and an engineer is called out they may charge for their wasted time. Quite apart from that, several days without a service could be avoided , so lets look at what we can do to get calls live quickly.

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How to keep your French telephone number

How to keep your French telephone number


If you want to stay in control of your telecom and broadband services in France some new protection has just become available.

  French regulation

The French telecom regulator ARCEP is the body charged with protecting telephone and broadband customers interests. Similar to OFCOM in the UK,  it makes rules that offer customer protection from bad practice and, whilst it may not be as efficient as some would like, it does address many concerns.

Most recently it has decided to address the unauthorised taking over of a customers account without their agreement. In the UK this is known in the    industry as slamming, with severe penalties for companies that misbehave. In France the consumer protection is less forceful, but has just been given a    small boost.

In the past a simple sales call could result in the service being transferred. It merely sufficed if the customer simply asked for some information about the  service being offered, even when it was merely a casual question and the service was not wanted or requested.  The way this often happened was that the  caller was working in a call centre and was not a direct employee of the telecom company. All the caller was interested in, therefore, was in getting their commissions without any regard for the real needs of the customer. Call centre employees know that they would be assigned to a different contract shortly,  and therefore did not feel accountable if they left a slew of problems behind them.

New rules

October 2015 saw a new development to enhance consumer protection. While that risk still remains, the transferring of an account is not so easy if the customers telephone number is to be retained. Now the acquiring telecom company is required to provide a RIO number that can only be obtained by the account holder before the number can be transferred.


How to keep your French telephone number

If you have decided to move your account and wish to retain your telephone number you will have to contact 3179 from your French landline to prevent fraudulent representation. You will be connected to a voice server (automated) and have to answer a small number of questions. You will then receive your RIO number from your old supplier. You then have to give this to your new supplier. Here is a translation of the automated message you will receive:

€œThis is voice server for the RIO number service. The RIO associated to the number €œyour landline number€ is €œRIO number€. If you wish to change your supplier and keep your existing number, dont cancel your existing contract. Your new provider will deal with it.

To repeat your RIO, press 1. To receive your RIO by text message, press 2. To receive your RIO by email, press 3. To receive your RIO by post, press 4.€

You will have to pass this number on to your new telecom company so that they can ensure you keep your number.

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UKTelecom at The France Show 2016

UKTelecom at The France Show 2016

UKTelecom will be at The France Show being held in London Olympia from 29th to 31st January 2016, but this time with a bigger stand.

Last year we were almost overwhelmed by visitors asking us to test the broadband speed of properties they were considering buying and we are going to make the experience much better in 2016.  Using our web based tools and specialist knowledge we were able to give them good honest advice within minutes and also helping them understand the process that has to be followed to get on line quickly.

If you want to know if your line qualifies for FREE line rental, how to go ex-directory, or how to set up your French answerphone service or what free and paid for services are available on your line you could not come to a better place for the answers.

But there are lots of other reasons to see us on Stand P242.  We are giving all visitors the chance to enter our free draw for wine and champagne with prizes drawn every day at 4.00pm. In addition, all visitors to our stand interested in setting up a telephone line and broadband connection in France can collect our France Show voucher with Free line installation management worth 48.00‚¬.

New customers can be certain of being able to get free offers from us that no other company gives.  These include FREE access to UKTV , our free UK TV catch up service.  It can be used to access the Netflix UK catalogue of films as well, which is much more comprehensive that the English language titles available via a normal French broadband service.

For visitors already in France we will translate their French telephone number into a low cost UK number that they can pass to friends and family in the UK.  When this number is dialled instead of the normal French number they will make huge savings.  A one minute call will cost 3 pence per minute compared to the BT charge of 40 pence per minute.

Customers can call us on our FREE phone number from France no matter what the reason for the call is.  It is all part of a service that puts customers first!

We continue to be the only telecom company offering customers the choice between paying invoices in £s or ‚¬s, just another example of what makes us different!

Calls from France to UK non-geographic numbers

Calls from France to UK non-geographic numbers

When you call a non-geographic number in the UK from your French landline you have been charged for the cost to get your call from France onto the UK network and then the cost associated with the particular type of number you are calling.

Following the OFCOM regulators decision last July new access charges will be added to the cost of your call.  Charges for calls to Freephone numbers will remain the same.  That is, you will still be charged for the cost to get your call onto the UK network.

The actual service charge for calling the non-geographic numbers is set by the number range holding network and this must be clearly advertised by the company offering the service.

These charges will be applied by all telecom services companies in France.

UKTelecom has not increased its charges for any of these types of calls and does not receive any commissions from the number holders making these new access charges.

If you want to call a company in the UK, instead of dialling the non-geographic number, you can use its geographic correspondent. This will be a normal land line number starting by 01, 02, 03. If you already have a call package with free calls to land lines within the UK, calls to these numbers will not be charged.

You can easily use this link to search for an equivalent by either entering the company name or the non-geographic number.

If you need any help with this, dont hesitate to contact our office and one of our dedicated team members will assist you.

FREE UKDirect2U Service – Update

FREE UKDirect2U Service – Update

UKDirect2u FREE Service

We provide this free service to all phone subscribers in France giving big savings to their friends and family who wish to call them from the UK.  A standard call from a UK BT landline to a French number will cost 40 pence per minute.  However our customers choosing our free service which translates their French number into a low cost UK non-geographic number only pay 3 pence per minute.

We have not increased our cost of this service for the last 10 years and have no plans to do so.

Since July 2015 those in the UK using this and other non-geographic numbers have been charged an access charge, more commonly known as a connection charge, by their own telecom service provider.  It applies to 080, 084, 087, 09 and 118 numbers.  UKTelecom gets no benefit from this new charge.

The charges follow negotiations with OFCOM, the UK regulator.  The UK telecom companies will have advised their customers of these changes, but some people using our UKDirect2U service have not recalled receiving any notification and some of our customers have queried the charge for calls made to them when in France.

The actual charge made is likely to be different depending on the UK telecom company concerned.  For example UKTelecom charges its business customers 6 pence access charge but we know of several UK companies charging domestic customers up to 12 pence to access the 084 number we have provided.

Our UKdirect2U service remains a highly attractive service, costing typically just 15 pence (including the highest access charge) for the first minute of a call for a UK user to call you.  This compares to a BT domestic customer using their standard service who will pay 52 pence to speak with you.

On the same basis a five minute call using the UKDirect2U service will cost only 27 pence compared to the same call made over BT which will cost £2.12 pence.

If you have not asked us to provide this free service just make a call now to our Freephone number and one of our team will have you service set up while you are on the phone.  There are no contracts for you to sign and your friends dont have to sign anything either.  They will just see the call itemised on their bill in the normal way.