Consumer group hits Orange, SFR with 4G rollout complaint

PARIS Tue Nov 5, 2013 5:41am EST

PARIS Nov 5 (Reuters) - French consumer watchdog UFC Que Choisir said on Tuesday it had filed a legal complaint against mobile phone operators Orange France and Vivendi-owned SFR for deceptive marketing practices of their fourth generation broadband services.

France's leading telcos Orange and SFR as well as third-largest operator Bouygues are racing to build fourth-generation mobile networks and sign up customers to new offers featuring five times faster mobile Internet speeds.

Tests conducted during Oct. 3-17 by the French consumer body in the streets of Paris showed a discrepancy between the 4G coverage that Orange France and SFR claim to have in the capital and the access consumers really get to the 4G networks.

Orange's 4G network was available in 79.3 percent of Paris which compared with a 100 percent promise, while SFR covered 74.6 percent. Bouygues however came close to matching its 100 percent claim with 99.4 percent covered, the UFC Que Choisir report said.

A spokeswoman for Orange said the company was "surprised" by the legal action and will review the report before making further comments.

SFR said in e-mail comments to Reuters that it had announced in August that it aimed for a 100 percent coverage by year-end.

The consumer group is also asking French telecom regulator ARCEP to set up a body to monitor in real time the roll-out of the 4G networks and guarantee the claims made by the operators on coverage and speed.

ARCEP had no immediate comment while Bouygues could not be immediately reached for comment. (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, Gwenaelle Barzic; Editing by Leigh Thomas)

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