petite anglaise

July 27, 2005


Filed under: french touch, parting ways — petiteanglaiseparis @ 12:59 pm

I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that separating from someone you were not married to is actually more expensive than divorce.

Take France Telecom for example.

A couple of weeks ago, it occurred to me that my phone number was still registered in Mr Frog’s name. As I have always harboured a burning, secret desire to see my name in print (even if it is only in the pages blanches), and didn’t particularly want to speak to any old flames or schoolfriends that might look up Mr Frog at some point in the future, I decided to have the entry amended.

The lady from France Telecom who explained the procedure to follow was uncharacteristically helpful. A fax, signed by Mr Frog, authorising a transfer of the line, plus a copy of my bank details was all that was required. A couple of days later, I noted that my name already appeared in the online phone directory.

That was fiendishly simple and efficient, for France, I thought to myself.

And then I received the first bill bearing my name.

€ 55.00 – Services ponctuels ou occasionnels (ouverture de ligne)

I phone France Telecom, to report what I am – in my misguided optimism – determined to see as an error. I haven’t just moved in, and I don’t have a new telephone number, so I can’t possibly be charged a “connection fee”, can I?

First, I explain my problem to the service clients in a calm, almost cheerful manner.

“But you were informed of the cost when you enquired as to what the procedure was to carry out the name change.” states the lady, voice dripping with boredom.

“No, absolutely not. I was informed of no such thing!” I splutter, suffering from an acute sense of humour failure.

My call is transferred to the service facturation, where I have the pleasure of starting my complaint all over again from the beginning, minus the cheerfulness.

The man ascertains that I have not changed my telephone number, and (pretends to) consult with a supervisor. When he returns, he tells me it is absolutely normal to have been charged in this way.

I am livid. “It’s daylight robbery,” I shout, trying desperately to think how to say “preposterous” in French, but making do with a forceful “c’est aberrant!”

Getting worked up like this makes no difference whatsoever to anything except my life expectancy, which is considerably shortened.

When he can get a word in edgeways, Mr France Telecom gleefully delivers his parting shot:

“There are some cases in which the transfer of a line is free. If a line is transferred between spouses, or if you were PACSé for example.”

I knew Mr Frog and I should have got married.


  1. Attorney global fees : 1500€
    Recording the judgement : approx. 6 to 10% of the amount of the goods.
    Notaire : min. 150€


    EDF/GDF : dunno but let’s say 55€
    France Telecom : 55€
    Internet : free

    Looks fair to me.

    Comment by nathan — July 27, 2005 @ 1:37 pm

  2. In the U.S. it is actually a tax LIABILITY to be married. Our government, which spouts off regularly about “family values” actually PENALIZES couples who decide to marry. (Perversely, they then give you incentive to bear children, since you can claim them as a “deduction” on your taxes.) If you have no children and don’t plan to have them, it is cheaper here to just “live in sin”.

    Comment by Lisa — July 27, 2005 @ 2:19 pm

  3. OK, while this is really nothing compared with the costs of a real divorce, don’t give in, at least not yet. The interesting thing about ‘authorities’ (France Telecom still thinks it’s one)in a catholic/republican culture like France, even cops included, is that you can negotiate with them. All you have to do is to threaten to go over to the competition and they will cave in. Anyway shouldn’t you be looking at an all-inclusive internet + free phone calls deal?
    I thought you had learned by now that this is not Nether Whatsit and here being totally obnoxious is the only way to beat the buggers.
    Chin up!

    Comment by Parkin Pig — July 27, 2005 @ 2:23 pm

  4. Well, I was planning to write an angry lettre recommandée enquiring as to why my marital status makes a difference to the cost of carrying out a simple administrative task.

    I simply can’t be bothered to change operators (I have other operators for calls, cheaper than what noos are offering me) as I’m sure there will be charges for “résiliation” and whatnot and I don’t plan to be in Paris for ever so it hardly seems worth it….

    Comment by petite — July 27, 2005 @ 2:30 pm

  5. My French fried in Paris is with He pays 20 euros per month and this is what is included: unlimited calls anywhere in France at any time and very low international rates, a 12Gb broadband connection and a nice package of satellite channels. You might want to give them a call.

    Comment by céline — July 27, 2005 @ 2:35 pm

  6. Sorry, I didn’t mean “fried”. I meant “toasted”.

    Comment by céline — July 27, 2005 @ 2:35 pm

  7. PARIS (AP) — France Telecom SA announced Wednesday that it needs 55 Euros from an unmarried Englishwoman in Paris because it is buying an 80 percent stake in Spain’s third-largest mobile-phone operator, Amena, for 6.4 billion euros ($7.7 billion).

    With Amena, France Telecom is poised to become Europe’s second-largest provider of mobile phone services behind Britain’s Vodafone Group, and places Spain alongside France, Poland and Britain as a core market for the company.

    France Telecom said it will finance the deal with a 3 billion euros ($3.6 billion) capital increase. The acquisition marks France Telecom’s largest deal since it bought mobile unit Orange in 2000, and comes after a three-year break from big purchases.

    Since a debt crisis in 2002, the French telecommunications giant has worked to integrate its operations and cut about 30 billion euros ($36 billion) in debt, as calculated under French accounting standards.

    Shares of France Telecom rose nearly 2.2 percent to 24.90 euros ($29.85) in morning trading on the Paris stock exchange.

    Comment by Parkin Pig — July 27, 2005 @ 2:48 pm

  8. I hate dealing with big companies like that. I used to work for a large cellular company in the customer service department. That was a joke. I actually got in trouble with my bosses for taking the time to actually work with the customers! It’s hard to get people on the other end of the line at a huge company to care about what is going on with you, specifically because it’s you and not them. If the tables were turned and that guy from France Telecom called you, he would be upset too.

    Comment by Taarna — July 27, 2005 @ 3:01 pm

  9. Phone companies are out to get us all. I just moved and decided to cancel my home phone, as I use my cell for everything. I dealt with a young guy who kept trying to convince me that I still needed my phone (for emergencies… what?), but finally it was done and all was fine. I unplugged the phone, moved and voila!

    But wait.. yes, my bill came. $9.95 disconnection fee. It’s not as bad as €55, but I mean, come on! Definitely highway robbery.


    Comment by theinsider — July 27, 2005 @ 4:26 pm

  10. I am in awe of you – fancy being able to live in a foreign-speaking country, let alone dealing with bueracracy and French at that! I agree – marriage makes a relationship no better but it makes financial stuff and rights etc. a bit clearer.

    Comment by Em — July 27, 2005 @ 4:51 pm

  11. Being in Quebec I’m surrounded by French constantly. Not bad, at least nothing compared to the true French… from La France. Europe is bad when it comes to telephone, but France and French attitude is the tur culprit. The French bureaucracy is legendary. My hat’s off to you.

    Comment by thegamebrain — July 27, 2005 @ 5:40 pm

  12. You’re crazy. That’s nothing. It’s the normal connection fee, and you’re not married. What did you expect? It’s like that almost everywhere in the world. When ownership of a line passes from one person to another, there’s a charge.

    BTW,… they are impossible to contact in case of difficulties, plus there’s a 128Eu resiliation fee, plus you still pay for your phone line, around 30Eu, unless you disconnect your phone completely, but that’s like 180Eu, or something. Either way, I probably wouldn’t do it because if something happens to your landline, you’d have a bitch of a time getting France Telecom or Free to have anything to do with it.

    If you’re on a PC, go with the new VOIPs services available. I’m trashing my homephone, and going internet and cellphone only.

    Comment by nardac — July 27, 2005 @ 6:30 pm

  13. you guys still have a landline ?

    Comment by schuey — July 27, 2005 @ 8:59 pm

  14. I like posts like this. I feel like I will have some insider knowledge when I arrive in Paris.
    All sounds like a huge hassle though….

    Comment by Anne — July 27, 2005 @ 10:07 pm

  15. Why don’t we all sign a petition telling crappy France Télécom (I hate them too and use 3U and Free for as much of my communications as I possibly can) that if they don’t waive the fee, we’ll ALL cancel our contracts with them?? They don’t have to know that half of Petite’s readers don’t even live in France….

    I love it when they cave in!!

    Comment by Lauren — July 28, 2005 @ 9:53 am

  16. schuey – how can my little old grandma in the UK phone me if I don’t have a landline? Oddly enough, she doesn’t have broadband…

    Comment by petite — July 28, 2005 @ 11:05 am

  17. when my partner and i split i got the flat but left the phone in his name to avoid such charges. Works out quite well as I can say quite truthfully when cold-callers phone that I am not Mrs Roberts and that Mr Roberts who they think pays the bills lives elsewhere. So they stop ringing assuming I am not the bill payer. Although the fact that I am cursed with permanently sounding about 14 probably helps in this deception…

    Comment by Ellie — July 28, 2005 @ 11:13 am

  18. Thing with France Telecom that really p*sses me off is that they have a s*dding monopoly on lines… we went with Neuf Telecom thinking we could get rid of FT that way; but no. Vain presage! now we just have TWO bills! One for communications, and one for the phoneline!! Génial, quoi. I’m sure FT is in cahoots with the government…they’re all autistic.

    Comment by Lucy-Jane in Rennes — July 28, 2005 @ 1:59 pm

  19. you granma doesn’t have broadband ???? OMG. How can she actually survive ? ;)

    Comment by stephan — July 28, 2005 @ 2:08 pm

  20. Hmmm….yes….I too discovered this 55 euro thingy just yesterday, as I prepare to depart from the ‘married state’ and go it alone….still waiting to discover the deposits required for EDF and for water….if anyone has some useful advuce on the phone/internet thing …..HELP! As for bureaucracy…just went to the prefecture this morning to FINALLY collect my permit de conduire…after some (un)expected delays….then went to check on my 10 year residency permit…and lo and behold….they have lost my application….YAAY!!! Now to restart the paperwork. But I still love France and wild horses wouldn’t drag me away.

    Comment by Kat — July 28, 2005 @ 2:14 pm

  21. Have been ripped off every which way since moving to France–Noos being the worst, at least for cable TV, and “Free” was anything but! They are also part of France Telecom, and was a neat little earner for them as long as I had a dial-up connection. “Free” internet service, but you pay a fortune for the phone calls while online. Will have to look into their cable service with a view to getting rid of Noos…
    I agree–the “effort” was the same for France Telecom whatever your marital status might be, so why charge in one case and not the other? Any excuse will do…

    Comment by Tess — July 28, 2005 @ 4:27 pm

  22. ‘Quite amusing. But I agree it is a case of daylight robbery. Be careful next time. My first time to comment here. You have a lovely weblog.

    Comment by Dr Emer — July 28, 2005 @ 4:49 pm

  23. Customer service is dead and if it isn’t dead it has been outsourced to someone that wishes they were dead.

    Sorry to hear about the fees.

    Comment by eddo — July 28, 2005 @ 5:26 pm

  24. France Telecom and Bell Canada must employ the same people.

    Comment by Julia — July 28, 2005 @ 8:27 pm

  25. When I was working in a call centre, I would use my ‘speaking to my supervisor’ time stretching my legs and getting myself a ChocoMilk from the vending machine.

    The brilliance of it is, technically, you’re still on a call so it doesn’t count against your ‘availabililty’ scores.

    Then smugly saunter back to the desk and say
    “yes…I spoke to my supervisor and he agrees, there really is nothing we can do.”

    Mmmm…delicious chocomilk.

    Comment by Mr. Andrew — July 29, 2005 @ 12:52 am

  26. the irony of my google contextual ads coming up with a France Telecom ad is not lost on me

    Comment by petite — July 29, 2005 @ 10:16 am

  27. Spell their name wrong deliberately!

    Comment by Meredic Hallett — July 29, 2005 @ 11:47 am

  28. this almost happened to me as well but after much arguing with a semi-human FT customer rep, they put it under “succession familiale” and it only cost €25. Trésor Public, CAF, Assédic will readily accept “concubinage” (and use it for taking money away from you or not giving it) but FT doesn’t recognise it? r-i-d-i-c-u-l-e!

    Comment by isabelle — July 29, 2005 @ 1:46 pm

  29. Great post by the way. In the United States, getting divorced was expensive. 1. I had to hire a lawyer $2000.00. 2. I had to buy a new automobile $1400.00 (junk mobile), then bought another van (the first one broke down, was not worth fixing) $10,000. 3. Had to refinance my house, so my ex-wife could not take it. $7000.00/closing costs (got ripped, did not read the fin print.) Had to pay off her credit cards $3000.00. Ex-wife took me back to court to take my kids from me $750.00 You may ask how I was able to pay for all of this. Well I am still paying and probably will for the next ten years. It just about killed me. But hey I can still afford the internet. (ha ha)

    Comment by Shane Coffey (Cellounge Admin) — July 29, 2005 @ 3:29 pm

  30. Hello,

    According to my growing Euro-Quest networks:

    Several students from Cornell and visiting International Students/Scholars all find French culture rather rude. Thus, and according to other talk, especially about Parisian sociocultural behaviorisms, Americans in general are vulnerable. There is even evidence that several Parisian males are on the hunt for a rich Americans for marriage, or…..Thus divorce is like backmail.

    Nonetheless, those who have made some contact with the American Expats organizations there, their experiences are alot richer. I believe this to be a critical difference of why the growing American Expat community is more readily accepted by French authorities than nay other Expats community. American tourists, bussines people, and the likes are not really liked. Howeover, and once it is understood your are living there, then there is critical difference. If you have not done so, all of you who are reading this. It is most advisable for you to make contact with one of serveral American Expats organizations. The time you put out is well worth the effort in the long run of touring, living and moving to Paris.



    Comment by Roger M. Christian — July 29, 2005 @ 9:57 pm

  31. While in some ways this is definitely a case of ‘caveat emptor”, it still shows how stupid some companies can be with regards to their so called “customer service.” Is France Telecom a monopoly in France, or are their other, more reliable phone services available? If yes, are they strictly long distance services, or are there local services also available?

    Comment by Dave of the Lake — July 30, 2005 @ 12:56 am

  32. there are several other reliable (and cheaper)phone services, both for local, national & international, but FT has the monopoly on the actual phoneline. which means that even if all your calls go through another service, you still have to pay FT 35€ every other month for the line and still have to deal with them for opening & resiliating a line etc.

    Comment by isabelle — July 30, 2005 @ 1:15 pm

  33. Roger Christian – I find your comment appalling as advice for visiting Americans, or any expat for that matter. Hanging out in a group of expats is exactly the worst thing one can do as a foreigner in any country. The best thing is to jump straight in and learn how the country thinks and lives, from within, instead of staying with the scared sheep in the “visitor’s lounge.”

    The very notion that these “several Cornell students” all find French people, as a whole, rude is clearly an incisive comment on their failure to think outside of their own ethnocentric biases. It would make me sad to think that such a distinguished establishment as Cornell could produce such cretinism, so I will instead choose to accept that your research is fabricated.

    People who move to another country should be prepared to deal with change. They should accept that there are wonderful beautiful things in their new country that run hand in hand with the more problematic differences.

    Comment by nardac — July 30, 2005 @ 6:31 pm

  34. Hello Petite Anglaise

    I have just taken a peek at your 32 things. I see that you spent some time in Leighton Buzzard. Did you go to Cedars or Vandyke… you and I are the same age – we may have been at school together!


    Comment by D — July 30, 2005 @ 9:38 pm

  35. Hear hear, nardac.
    I also think the idea that “there is evidence that several Parisian males are on the hunt for rich Americans for marriage” is utterly laughable.
    Come on Roger Christian, what century are you living in ?

    Comment by Mancunian Lass — July 30, 2005 @ 11:16 pm

  36. D – I was only in Leighton Buzzard up to the age of 9 so I only know Clipstone Brook Lower School, I’m afraid…

    Comment by petite — July 31, 2005 @ 6:01 pm

  37. The sad fact is that FT behaves in a way which has hardly anything to do with bureaucracy. Ever since its debt crisis a few years back, its policy has been to pressure customers or potential customers as much as they could, bordering on vente forcée and all kinds of more than litigious procedures, so as to keep them captive. And it works. So I wonder whether fees would have been taken from people who could justify of concubinage, but now, I am not afraid that they should charge you.
    The question of the fees for keeping the line open borders on a tough political question. Those lines were, for most of them, set up since the 1970s plan to bring the phone to every home in France (prior to that, domestic phones were still seen as a luxury in France, remember the sketch of the 22 in Asnières by Fernand Reynaud). So the State paid for them with taxpayers’ money, and though there was an individual fee to keep the line open, it was not as high as now. When the State decided to privatise FT, in keeping with EU regulations, what was to become of the lines? Were they a national property and asset, or be sold, as it were, “avec l’argenterie”? The lines were sold along with its overall administration, which could be considered public goods or services, as opposed to FT’s commercial activities. That means that FT is here to stay, if only because no other company can allow it to breakdown (including internet providers). So watch your bills…
    A good read, really.

    Comment by zayezzift — July 31, 2005 @ 7:53 pm

  38. Is this Roger Christian a spoof? If so, it’s too subtle for me. If it’s not, and I suspect it’s not, irony not being a typically American strongpoint, then he’s a disgrace to Cornell and to his once, or maybe still, wonderful country. He doesn’t know how to write and his ideas expressed with great difficultly are definitely not too Ivy League.
    So butt out buddy, you’re getting Americans a bad name.

    Comment by Parkin Pig — August 1, 2005 @ 11:39 am

  39. I suspect that dear Roger M. has been availing himself of an online translation service…

    My hovercraft is full of eels.

    Comment by Jim in Rennes — August 1, 2005 @ 12:02 pm

  40. Blimey, didn’t feel quite myself for a moment there…

    Comment by Jim in Rennes — August 1, 2005 @ 12:20 pm

  41. Jim, stop feeling yourself!

    Comment by Parkin Pig — August 1, 2005 @ 1:09 pm

  42. Hee-hee! Hurrah for smutty jokes! (Suppresses self with difficulty from continuing smutty line of Parkin Pig…)

    Comment by Lucy-Jane in Rennes — August 1, 2005 @ 2:09 pm

  43. Jim in Rennes I suspect you’re right ……his english reads like my french(souvent)… I’ve just learned to accept the bills and the waiting… there is a track worn between chez moi and the Marie, I suspect that the receptionist detests me and tells the Prefecture nasty things about me which is why every thing I require takes about 3 months… at least France Telecom is quick (if they know they’re going to make money)
    But there are some great advantages to living here also, especially in Summer..

    Comment by ste cecile — August 1, 2005 @ 11:14 pm

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