Is Orange merely an arrogant, incompetent monopoly….or something far worse?

The Slog investigates boycotts of Israeli goods…and Orange’s diplomatic lies

This little histoire is different to most other cases of baffling IT interface, because whereas there is a choice in many cases, in France with telephone-line internet, there is no choice: it’s Orange or nothing.

As it happens, I do have a satellite internet back-up, but for 97% of the population that would be out of their reach. Anyway, being a bloated plutocrat and having two domiciles on my property, I now need my landline plus router moving from the main house to the barn conversion….so I can have the satellite system in the main house, and thus internet everywhere. Simples?

Not if you’re Orange. If you’re Orange, that need does not exist. It is a non-need, a fantasy, an invention of my disturbed Anglo-Saxon mind. Nobody in history has ever wanted engineers to turn up, and switch the phone entry point from one part of a property to another.

The navigation of the Orange website works like this:

orangesite

As you can see, it’s very simple. Some early straight lines raise your hopes, only to dash them by leading you onto one of the Seven Eternal Circles. But mainly, having been told on the welcome page that what you want doesn’t exist, it then gives you five topics that do, and then six animals you might be. The next page then offers you a free trial of sports related internet on a mobile. It asks if you wanted something else, but nothing to get you there. Down at the bottom it says ‘contact Orange’. Press the button, and hey presto-hop! You’re back at Welcome.

You can phone Service Orange on 3900. On my last bill, it says this number ‘is free except for the cost of the call’; what it doesn’t say is that there too, the customer will be offered the same five topics, and when you say no to all of them a voice says “I didn’t quite catch that”. Orange, you see, is allergic to the word ‘No’. When you choose an option – it doesn’t matter which, they’re all equally esoteric – the robot asks you to choose from another six alternatives. I did once get through five stages of this (at 3€ a minute) but hung up when she asked me which colour of Livebox I wanted.

Livebox is the router system provided by Orange. Nobody in the world uses any other box: this must be true, because there is no means of explaining that you actually have a Trendnet box. You try, but Mrs Stepford just keeps on asking the same question. It’s rather like watching central bankers using QE.

So that’s it: internet, phone, nothing. You cannot email Orange. They do own an email service, but they forbid you to contact them on it. They run one of the biggest telecom networks in the world, but you can’t use that system to speak to anyone at Orange. There is no normal telephone line offered for Orange HQ. Nowhere – on bills, sites, phone services or social internet – is there a box marked ‘make a complaint’.

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You can get the drift, I’m sure: as usual, it’s all about the munnneeeee. Orange don’t want to employ anyone unless those people are selling 24/7. On social media for example, there is a Twitter page Orange Advice. Try tweeting anyone there: they lead you round the houses, make daily promises of instant action, and then stop replying. Even the replies are identical: most of the ‘answers’ hahaha are from robots. There is no point to the Twitter page at all: it’s a gesture, nothing more.

Last Monday, I researched the name of Orange’s head of customer services, and sent her a four-part tweet set on open Twitter giving simple details, customer number and so on. It’s nearly a week now, and no reply. She’s obviously very busy telling customers to stop wanting services that don’t exist. Several French people spotted the communication, though; they variousy retweeted it, adding wry comments like ‘in your dreams, mate’ and ‘hahahaha’.

I’ve been digging around among neighbours, consumers, phone engineers and some friendly retailers. This seems to be the consensus:

  1. Orange want you to go to one of their shops. There they have real people who can sell you something to do with the internet that is supposedly going to take over from, er, shops. That way they only employ people and infrastructure they already had. Your customer number on bills etc is irrelevant online: the last thing they want is anyone getting some service without buying a piece of kit. (The nearest Orange outlet to me here is a four-hour round trip).
  2. Orange regard the fixed line sector as a nuisance dying noisily, and they’re mustard keen to get on with obligatory euthanasia. The only thing that stirs them into action is getting a formal letter giving them notice of quitting, because that means they lose cashflow: but if you don’t buy some kit with the service (preferably an Orange Livebox) then in the end they’ll just say fine, bye-bye. Nobody does leave, of course, because for 97% of people there is no alternative. Read this paragraph again, and you will see that it’s utterly self-contradictory in marketing terms.
  3. If they turn up and the problem you have is with their equipment, they’ll tell you the problem is with your equipment. They win two ways on this: first, they can charge you a €125 callout fee and second, they can sell you some kit you don’t need. Only sheer luck in 2014 stopped me from falling for the scam: a Pole doing some rewiring for me had been a telecoms engineer back home, and he told the Orange liar where to stick it.
  4. For an operation of their size, one private supplier told me, “their staff levels in service are just laughable”. Google ‘poor Orange service in France’, and 68.4 million results turn up. But here too, Big O are very cunning: they’ve blocked all the first two pages with links to their service. Get past Page 3, however, and comments  like “What we got in the shop was rude staff who didn’t listen, and told one lie after another about what we needed” from both the domestic and business sector.

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Now, the big thing we don’t have in the West any more are legislators prepared to intervene and do something about corporate sociopathy. Senior politicians these days see themselves as opening doors for big multinationals: this is because the electorate won’t give pols any money any more, and so MPs and Deputies have to get large organisations to pay them bribes, called donations.

This finally dawned on me about twenty years ago, and for the last ten I’ve been boffing on here about the need to either get all donated funding out of politics or boycott the serpents who bankroll the useless legislators.

I’ve given up arguing for the former any more, because too many self-styled Harumphy-Bufty-Tufties say “why should we pay for them?”…..they being too thick to realise they already do – but just stupid enough to cut off their own noses. However, marathon Sloggers will know that I remain passionate about cutting off the Whiteminster Establishment’s money supply through the use of boycotts.

Well, you’ve probably spotted that TTIP and the EU are onto this little avenue of resistance, and that legislation is in the works. But premature ejaculator David Cameron couldn’t wait, and so one truly heinous piece of ‘lawmaking’ is already slithering largely unnoticed onto the Statute Book: an instrument to ban the boycott of Israeli goods. I wouldn’t have spotted it myself, but then prominent journo-blogger Ed West tweeted to call it ‘a terrible idea’. He was right.

Regardless of how you feel one way or another about Israel, to show one’s displeasure at the national policies of a State or its individual producers by not buying the products or withdrawing one’s use of its services is a fundamental citizen right over which no democratic Government has any jurisdiction whatsoever: it is a form of peaceful protest – the result of which (to quote one obvious example) is that thirty years on, sales of the Murdoch Sun in Liverpool are risible.

The subject might be Israel, and the ban might only apply to local government entities, but it is very obviously the thin end of the wedge….and a continuation of the Non-Violent Extremism (NVE) poppycock. Boycotting is a personal/group decision in which there is no coercion of those involved: the Government is heading down the road to a place where non-coercive, peaceful protest is to be stopped coercively.

As always when Camerlot is caught out vandalising free speech, the initial reaction has been to engage all seven Italian tank reverse gears and “reconsider”. But just as with Grayling’s tooth-rattling anti-plurality ideas at the Ministry of Justice, once the dust settles, other insects of the same creepy species crawl out from under the stone to try another assault on liberty.

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What, you might ask, has all this got to do with the criminally disgraceful treatment of its customers by Orange? Well generally, the point to make is that Orange is a very active lobbyist – not just here in France – and an enthusiastic supporter of TTIP’s central aim: to give itself global sovereignty over elected governments.

But specifically, the delicious irony in relation to the Israeli goods boycott is that its latest incarnation involves….why, damn me, none other than Orange. And let me tell you, even by contemporary standards, the company’s dishonesty about the issue is breathtaking.

Activists in Egypt are boycotting Mobilin, the Orange-owned mobile supplier there, because of its affiliation to Israeli company Partner Communications….a mobile provider with 100% licence rights over the Orange brand in Israel. Once the boycott took hold in Egypt, Orange reacted swiftly, using its official Twitter account, to deny Orange’s connections to Israel’s Partner Communications. As with most things Orange promises on Twitter, it was a brazen lie.

An investigation by a coalition of French and Palestinian human rights and labour organisations recently concluded that Orange participates in ‘systematic violations of Palestinian rights’, noting that Orange profits from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank as Partner operates hundreds of communications towers and other infrastructure, much of it on privately owned land confiscated from Palestinians. There are also dozens of Orange-branded stores in settlements Israel has built in the West Bank in violation of international law.

It’s all true as it happens, but Orange bigwig Yves Gauthier asserted in statements published by Egypt’s youm7.com that Orange “has no operational presence in Israel, and has no ownership connection to the Israeli company Partner Communications.” That really is a bit of a whopper.

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Sorry this has been something of a lengthy meander, but sometimes joining up disparate dots does lead to the Truth – rather than half-baked conspiracy bollocks.

It is this: monopolous multinationals lobby, lie and cheat their customers in order to keep the munnneeeee rolling in. They perform unethical practices and form amoral relationships, while paying politicians to cut out competition and keep the Rule of Law away from them. When protestors decide to boycott them, spineless jellyfish like David Cameron do their bidding by trying to block the boycotts. But when boycotts backfire on them, the Oranges of this world are quick to desert their erstwhile allies. Ultimately, we the People are the losers, because the political investment is in monopoly psycho-fascists, as opposed to our health, education and real equality before the Law.

Everywhere around the world – all the time – wronged citizens expecting some return on their tax payments find themselves fighting against corporacratic immunity created by dictatorial political cliques. Some will see JengBA’s fight against the Joint Enterprise Law as a narrow victory…or WASPI’s continuing struggle against State pension fraud as a niche grievance…..or Nick Wilson’s one-man fight against HSBC as the endless carping of a grudge-bearer, and Peter Jukes’s marathon anti-Murdoch mission as a political vendetta. They will also see my own campaign to unmask the Dorian Gray portrait in Jeremy Hunt’s attic as a personal obsession…and condemnation of Orange cynicism as the grumpy moaning of a sad old git.

But micro symptoms are almost always the sign of a macro disease – a cultural cancer disabling the 97% for the benefit of the 3%.

The Joint Enterprise Law was a ready-made container for the suppression of group protest. The Fifties Women pension welch is a trailer of worse things to come. HSBC is directly implicated in a plot by Number Ten to silence public service broadcasting journalism. Newscorp is a criminal enterprise giving everyone with a sense of decency the finger. Jeremy Hunt’s personal lack of moral navigation has aided and abetted Newscorp, and is engaged in a ruthless attack on universal healthcare. And Orange is just another ally of the surveillance state, ripping off its customers while insisting that its directors and shareholders are infinitely more important than the liberty than can only be nurtured by the survival of civilised behaviour.

Connected at The Slog: the broader ramifications of Brexit