Advice please … my mum, Free and fraud

Hi there, I’m wondering if anyone can advise. I live in the UK but my widowed Mum (86 years old) lives in Paris. We got her a smart phone so she could FaceTime us in the UK and we signed her up with Free. Her bill normally £20pm has had 3 calls on it, two to the Congo (one for 1 hr59) and one to Haiti. Hugely expensive!! She did not make these calls obviously and when she went to the store, they told her that it was possible her SIM card was cloned and that they would put some sort of block on it. However, to claim her money back she had to contact customer service by WhatsApp. She did this and was told to write. Having heard nothing she contacted them again on Whatsapp at which point they told her the calls were hers, there was no evidence it was fraud and so she had to pay. This is very distressing for my mum. We’re takking £100s of Euros. All her friends in France say she won’t get her money back. Is this really the case?? Can you advise at all. It is really affecting her mental and overall health and is very upsetting. I appreciate any advice you can give. I don’t know the French system and my French unfortunately isn’t great either. Thank you so much in advance. D

Basically you raise an official complaint “reclamation” with Free. When that fails, in the contract you signed towards the end there is a clause on “mediation”. The organisation mentioned there, is the one to address your complaint to if Free fails to resolve it.

My advice to you is to send any communication about this to them in a way that is tracked and proven to be received. IME Free even signed for a cancellation letter from me, could not deny having received it as I’d sent it signed-for, and yet 3 months later had not actioned it and refused to refund back to the date it was correctly cancelled. I will be pursuing them for this but not for a couple of months as I’m too busy.

If you haven’t cancelled with them I suggest you take the cheapest deal with sosh and port it - it will be done in about 1 week and avoids Free playing the games above. Then pursue them.


When you write to Free mention her age, as they perhaps may be sensitive to negative press about not helping fragile older people.

These are other options. Use if your french is not to hot.

Pour vous aider dans votre démarche, vous pouvez bénéficier de conseils auprès d’une association de consommateurs agréée. Pour trouver celle qui se trouve près de chez vous, rendez-vous sur le portail de l’Institut national de la consommation (INC).
Enfin, vous pouvez également alerter la Direction générale de la concurrence, de la consommation et de la répression des fraudes (DGCCRF) ou, en fonction de votre département, la Direction départementale de la protection des population (DDPP) ou la Direction départementale de la cohésion social et de la protection des populations (DDCSPP).


From ALL the threads I have read about Free in all the time we have been in France - 14 years - these people are dreadful.
I really doubt they have any conscience at all nor a “better nature” to appeal to. Frankly, I don’t think ttey will care a monkeys about reputation.
Just go for the jugular as @KarenLot suggests and get her on to a better deal…


Gosh, this does sound awful.
I know you were hoping to have your Mother move to UK last year… and this has obviously not happened.
I wonder if there is someone in your Mother’s locality who “looks after” the elderly. “look after” is not the right phrase, I’m just thinking aloud.
I know that it’s not the same in the countryside as it is in Paris, but Mairie’s should have someone or know of someone who can help their elderly folk.
Perhaps a neighbour can make contact with the Mairie (or whoever) on your Mother’s behalf… as it might well be that someone has indeed had access to your Mother’s phone or has cloned it.

As I say… just thinking aloud…

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Thank you so much. This is really helpful. Not sure we can find the original contact so if anyone happens to have the details that would be amazing. I’m not being lazy (!), it’s just hard to support my mum remotely and she’s finding things a bit overwhelming.

That’s such a kind message thank you. She has great neighbours but feels she is too reliant on them. They do do a lot like drive her to have her vaccination, pick her up from the station when she travels, make appointments for her online etc We are still trying to help her move and she is in the selling process, also very overwhelming for her. I will suggest the Mairie to her - she is aware of them and hasn’t always found them able to help as she would like, although they have on one or two things. Thank you again.

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Thank you. This is what I feared esp after seeing their facebook group FULL of complaints around money and refunds, charges for unmade calls or cancelled contracts. I appreciate the harsh reality. Thanks. Best get her off there asap.

I have already tried this approach on the whatsapp route. They were incredibly insensitive, direct and rude.

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remember that in France the consumer cannot cancel the direct debit - to do so will place your mum on a wrong footing.
It might be possible to do this remotely by phone to sosh (although I think they are internet only, @KarenLot could confirm) and as Karen has said, port the number to a new contract (unless of course, the current number has no significance).

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Please, please try and reassure her. I do understand how your Mother feels about not being too reliant on her neighbours but I suggest to try and make her understand that “good neighbours” support one another as and when there is a need.
I’m not homing in on her age, I would say the same for anyone. If one needs a little help with “whatever” or is worried about “whatever”… that’s when neighbours can, and often will, step in to assist.

We have a neighbour just turned 90 . She is sprightly, but now having difficulty bringing her wood supply indoors each day (and I worry about her falling up/down the steps.)
We are extremely good friends but, even so, I have to do some cajoling so she will allow my OH to help her with this task. She tells me it’s not fair to “impose on us” and I tell her (gently) to put the coffee on… and we always end up chatting and laughing… and she makes a great fuss of OH after he brings the last logs in… :+1: :rofl:

(I’m gently hinting at her getting the steps changed to a slope… but that is a step too far at the moment…) :wink:

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you’re favourite suggestion “talk to the mairie” should work here - get the assistant sociale to get it organised…

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I talk from personal experiences when I suggest the Mairie… and am well aware that not all Mairies and/or regions are the same… I’d rather make a suggestion which is laughed at, than let someone flounder perhaps needlessly. :wink:
Sadly, for my neighbour… she will not have steps and that’s that. She does have another entrance on the level but prefers the backdoor… aaaargh.
(SS did put in a handrail for her… )
EDIT: as graham suggests, I’ve gone barmy… my neighbour won’t have a “slope”…

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Yes you can. I did it last week - cancel a direct debit. I had to visit the bank but it is doable.

The problem for the poster is even after porting out of free they still have a mandate so… But the simplest way to escape Free is to port the number - saves registered letters they ignore.

Check if your mother’s house insurance includes legal assistance that may offer some solutions.

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Ooo-err :thinking: I’ve been on their 2€ deal for a couple of years now. I only use it to receive calls/sms from French entities that have to have a FR phone number to communicate with.

I’ve never had any dealing with them. Maybe I should get out before something blows up?

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good to know.
The past convention seems always to have been you can’t; has there been a change in recent times and which bank (presumably French).
@KarenLot is my usual go to place for consumer banking matters - does Karen know about this?

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I thought it was a ramp you were suggesting :thinking:

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It will be online in her espace. May, or may not, be accessiblr on the website - look for the official headings for Conditons de Vente or similar at the bottom of the screen in case you can find this standard info without checking your actual contract in your espace.

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Just port it now I have done it both ways in France and the avoidance of complications porting rather than giving notice is even starker in France than UK. used to be able to be called but have blocked most ways now.

if she wants calls to the UK included is the only low cost one I know that includes them. Do not take the official 9,99 euros, there are multiple recurring promotions at 5,99 for at least the first year (and should get an offer a few months in to freeze it low forever for a nominal amount more). But very very poor signal most places however I suspect Paris will be fine. Syma has really nice customer service though, phoneable too


Have you considered contacting the local branch of UFC Que choisir


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