Without doubt there are many wonderful things about living in France. One possible downside is the cost of keeping in touch with friends and family in other countries. The days of dialling an operator for an international number have long since disappeared; mobiles that can reach all corners of the world and send emails and photographs allow everyone to stay in touch at a price. However, very few of us would want to use the most expensive way of communicating as their main choice of staying in touch.
With the continuing low pound to euro exchange rate coupled with interest income being lower than anyone can remember interest in the telecoms market has never been greater. The one real benefit to members of the public from the developments in telephony is that the single option of the national carrier, France Telecom, has been replaced by a wide choice of independent services. Most of these offer both big savings and special services such as a full English language customer support section.
UKtelecom has, like others, seen an unprecedented increase in new customers in 2009. The combination of having savings of up to 60% and all services from line rental to broadband being included in one bill, with choices of services combined into bargain packages, have become irresistible in today’s climate. You can even pay from a UK bank account if you wish!
Not all alternatives to France Telecom are the same so it is important to look at the ‘small print’. Look out for connection charges, typically €0.12 every time the number you dial is connected, check the international rates (you pay no more to call the UK than to call your French neighbour with UKtelecom) and especially the cost of calls to mobiles.
There are other ways to save money that might work for you. If you have a second home in France you can choose to have a ‘Ligne Residence Secondaire’ from France Telecom, allowing you to suspend your line rental costs when you are not using it. This service is not compatible with broadband but still allows you to make big savings on all your calls if you use an alternative company.
If you are a gîte owner and have found it difficult to let properties try investigating installing broadband using wireless connection so all your guests can have access to the internet. The number of people now wanting to remain in touch with friends and work when away is increasing rapidly, and it is this type of additional service that might just make the difference to your property being chosen over others.
Many gîte properties are built of stone and can present problems with broadband access via a wireless connection, but there are devices that can overcome the majority of problems, so speak to your provider for some good free advice.
A note of caution! There continues to be a certain amount of miss selling of broadband in France. The offer is based on a very low cost for broadband, line and calls, but what is not made clear is that to get these big savings the voice side of your telephone line is disabled, and all your calls go over the internet VOIP service. If the line is of good enough quality this is a good service to choose. However, careful line tests need to be done to make certain. If you sign up for this service without being sure that your telephone line will support it, you may find you have no broadband, no call service, and will have to cancel the new service. This will usually involve a big cancellation fee and you will have to pay France Telecom to install a new line as well! (Don’t be surprised if the sales person you speak with does not run the test for you – they are paid on commission and all they need to achieve is a sale.)
It will cost you nothing to ask one of the many providers that advertise regularly to make the test – it will cost you nothing, but pay you dividends in peace of mind.
Choose wisely and you will both save yourself money, have a superior customer support function and be able to pay all your bills in one transaction. Then you can get back to concentrating on using the technology to bring friends and family closer – you never know, they might be so impressed that they choose to join you enjoying life in France!