Paris, 25 November 2010Through a decision issued on 23 November 2010, and made public today, the company Free was issued with an order to put an end to certain practices: at cause is the company’s exclusion of geographic numbers starting with 01 to 05 and non-geographic numbers starting with 09 from its high-volume “abondance (1)” offers, the result being that customers are billed for calls to these numbers on top of their flat rate fee.During the investigation carried out prior to issuing this notice to comply, the company Free had confirmed this practice and stated that it excluded close to 500 numbers belonging to a variety of services and parties. Free specified that, since the beginning of October, it had been playing a message at the start of each call, informing customers of the existence of a special pricing scheme, without specifying what price they were being charged for the call, and that it had published a list of the excluded numbers in the customer service section of its website.Despite these improvements, there continues to be a lack of information being provided to consumers on the scope of their flat rate offer, and especially on the prices the operator is charging for its services.In addition, the practice that Free is engaging in, which consists of applying a different rate to calls to certain numbers starting with 01 to 05 and with 09, based on criteria that takes into consideration either the nature of the message or the type of party being called (machine or human, platform or call centre, providing information or conversation, business or personal) does not appear to be neutral with respect to the messages being transmitted and results in a discrimination between users in similar situations, with no objective justification.These conclusions of a failure to comply with the principles of transparency and neutrality, as stipulated in the French Postal and electronic communications code, formed the basis of the decision made by the Authority’s Director General to order Free to put an end to this practice by 7 January 2011.The work carried out by ARCEP made it possible to conclude that the other local loop operators either do not or no longer engage in this type of practice today, or have committed to putting an end to these practices by the end of this year. The Authority will ensure that these commitments are fully met. ________________________
(1) High-volume fixed and mobile telephony offers are flat-rate services that give customers access to a set number of calling minutes (one or several hours) to certain types of number or certain destinations, during certain times of day or based on so-called unlimited formulas.