Factsheet - Telecoms
The France Telecom monopoly ceased in 2009 and you can now choose from a number of providers to install and manage your telephone line. One important reason for considering an alternative to France Telecom is that your account can be managed in English, which for those with little technical French can be a real benefit when faults occur. There is absolutely no difference in the way the telephone lines are maintained as this work is undertaken by subcontractors that repair faults in the order in which they are reported. (Only France Telecom is able to provide Maison Secondaire lines.)
When ordering a new line from France Telecom directly they are likely to ask you to sign up for a call package at the same time. However, you do not need to take out your call package with France Telecom and should look into other call providers which may be considerably cheaper, such as UK Telecom. If you choose France Telecom, always check your first invoice to see that no other costs than line rental are included except for those you actually ordered.
Both UK Telecom and France Telecom will connect you and look after your cables and line including billing you for your line rental (around €16.00 per month).
France Telecom have an English-spoken department, which you can reach from France on 0800 364 775. Many users of this service remark that it is often very hard to get through due to apparent understaffing. The service is only for sales, not for reporting faults, which are managed through a French speaking service.
UK Telecom will install new lines or connect you to an existing service, and this can be done in English calling their UK office on 01483 833 795 or by calling free from France using their freefone number 0800 940 614. Choosing this option will mean that you will only receive one bill for your line rental and calls. There are some very good UKTelecom unlimited call packages that can also increase your savings and unlike France Telecom you have the option of paying for your services from a UK bank account.
Among the services offered by both UK Telecom and France Telecom:
- information and advice about available products and services (mobile, internet or fixed line).
- information and advice about billing and payment.
- activation and termination of all France Telecom services for residential customers all over France (analogue and ISDN line, discount plan, Contact services such as call waiting, caller ID, etc...) sending of products and services brochures in English, on request.
The UK Telecom offices are open between 9.00am and 6.30pm Monday to Friday French time, just call free from France 0800 940614. (From the UK call 01483 833795.) Outside of these hours there is a message service and faxes can be sent to +44 (0) 1483 833 794. The France Telecom service is open Monday to Friday from 8:30 AM to 8:00 PM. Outside business hours, it is possible to leave a fax (+33 1 55 78 62 70), so that the service can take care of the request.
To reach this service from abroad simply dial:
+ 33 1 55 78 60 56 English speaking hotline
+ 33 1 55 78 60 34 French speaking hotline.
UK Telecom offers all these services and in addition:
- A translation of your French telephone number into a low cost UK number so friends and family can call you for up to 84% less than BT.
- The option of paying via a UK bank account
Apart from line rental (see above) the major cost is obviously for the calls you make. Thanks to industry deregulation a whole host of other telephone suppliers can offer you cheap rate calls for which you will be billed separately. You will hear many recommendations from people for different suppliers but it all depends on your call volumes, when you call, what country you call, your use of fixed vs mobile and your use of the internet. You can visit UK Telecom’s web site and download a free 20 page guide to the French Telecom Market that includes a comparison of the type of calls most often made by English speaking expats. If you choose carefully you should find that calls to friends at family in your home country are very competitively priced, so there'll be no excuse not to keep in touch!
You will need to provide proof of your address and identity to your local France Telecom office (phone 1014) or send copies to your alternative provider. UK Telecom may be able to do this for you in advance, but note that in most areas companies will not install or connect a line until the previous occupant has informed them and vacated the property. In nearly all cases you will be allocated a new number rather than take over the old number. To have a new line installed will cost you €55 for a straightforward reconnection and typically €110 for a new line. This might be more expensive depending on how far you are from the nearest junction point and UK Telecom can provide an estimate first. Additional lines are cheaper. If you want a ‘Line Residence Secondaire’ (for second home owners who want to suspend the line from time to time) you will have to provide France Telecom with proof that your main residence is elsewhere. This service is not suitable for use with a broadband service.
Phone Numbers & Tariffs
Dial 15 for SAMU (Emergency Services, Ambulance)
Dial 17 for Police
Dial 18 for Fire Services
Dial 12 for Directory Enquiries
Numbers beginning 06 are mobile numbers. The cost of these calls will depend upon your chosen provider (see above).
French phone numbers are written and spoken in pairs, i.e. two numbers at a time, with the number usually spoken as the full number e.g. 26 = vingt-six
not deux six
Plugs and sockets
In this respect the French telephone system is unique. French phones and faxes have a large flat plug (prise) and a special socket to receive the plug. You can buy adapters from DIY and electrical outlets in France which will allow you to plug in a US style RJ11 plug into the French socket. The RJ11 is the type of small plug commonly found on modem leads. If you are connecting equipment which is fitted with UK (BT) plugs you need to first purchase another adapter which will accept your UK plug and adapt it to an RJ11 plug i.e. you will use two adapters connected together. This sounds convoluted but works fine in practice. One mail-order supplier of both kinds of adapter can be found here. It is worth purchasing some adapters before your trip to France as you may not be able to find the right items in local stores.
Alternatively, a number of people have found that they are able to remove the UK plug, strip back the wires and (largely through trial and error) connect a French plug (easily purchased at your local DIY store) to their phone and make it work.
Please note however that not all UK telephone equipment works on the French phone system so if all of the above options fail you may still need to purchase new phones and fax machines in France!
You can obtain your local “Annuaire” (Local directory and yellow pages, sometimes combined in one volume) for free from France Telecom (call 1014). To purchase for other departments call 0800 30 23 02.
Most people want some form of internet connection these days. This topic, including selecting Internet Service Providers and advice on re-configuring your email is comprehensively covered in this PCs and the Internet in France
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