The cross of changing the telephone operator: endless calls and overcharges to the client

The telecommunications market in Spain is going through a decisive moment: Orange and Másmóvil are negotiating the merger of their businesses in Spain.

The cross of changing the telephone operator: endless calls and overcharges to the client

The telecommunications market in Spain is going through a decisive moment: Orange and Másmóvil are negotiating the merger of their businesses in Spain. If the operation is successfully completed, this will represent a true revolution in a highly competitive sector with more than 100 operators including the large telecoms (Telefónica, Vodafone, Orange, Másmóvil), the 'low cost' (Digi) and more local companies. Thousands and thousands of new offers reaching the consumer 24 hours a day, seven days a week. What is translating into a reduction in margins, especially for the main companies, which have been making heavy investments in infrastructure (fiber, 5G,...) and in intense competition for the client.

According to the National Commission of Markets and Competition (CNMC), in March this year, 78.1% of the lines were still in the hands of the three main operators (Telefónica, Orange and Vodafone) and, only in mobile lines , 628,536 mobile numbers were ported (changed operator).

This is 11.5% less than a year earlier. As has been happening in recent months: Másmóvil and the virtual operators (MVNO) recorded a positive balance (they gained customers) while Vodafone, Orange and Telefónica (Movistar) lost more numbers than they registered.

In addition, the four main telecoms have very similar market shares: Movistar (28.24%), Orange (22.91%), Vodafone (22.26%) and Másmóvil (20.55%). In any case, the portability process continues to be observed with caution by consumers: the CNMC Household Panel for the fourth quarter of 2021 pointed to the change of operator as the origin of 9.4% of mobile phone claims (by 10.3% in landlines) after billing problems (60%), lack of quality of service (37.1%) and difficulties registering (10%).

In this regard, the general director and head of studies of the telephone rate recommender 'Ysí' Beatriz Montalvo warns against "incidents, which occur in a not very high percentage." This expert she mentions examples such as problems with the new SIM card and that the previous operator continues to bill you, among others. "Customer service plays a fundamental role, it is important that the percentage of these incidents be minimized and that positive customer service be provided," concludes Montalvo.

For its part, from the DigitalES employers, they defend that in recent years the procedures are improving. As an example, they mention that "the leading operators themselves adopted a code of good practice in 2018" and that, now, this process is "practically invisible to the client".

The truth is that on many occasions Spaniards face an administrative labyrinth due to the obstacles they encounter when trying to cancel a telephone contract or make a change to another company. Telephone procedures can entail having to fight with a robotic voice in which the customer is invited to choose from a menu made up of numbers and different options. Sometimes, consumers are also forced to listen to endless music without any specialized agent answering the call. Another way to contact these channels is to send an email or through a chat. But, here you run the risk of not receiving answers or of getting an automated response that is difficult to understand and that does not resolve the user's doubts.

With the aim of curbing abuses and delays in this area, the Council of Ministers approved this week the preliminary draft of the Law on Customer Service Services. When it comes into force, the call centers will have to limit the time for consumers to be attended to by phone in general information, claim and after-sales services to three minutes. Among other measures, a 15-day limit period will also be set for companies to respond to customer complaints. The rule also establishes that the service hours must coincide with the business hours of the company itself, except for basic services of general interest that will have to enable a 24-hour service, seven days a week.

The communication director of the OCU, Ileana Izverniceanu, stresses "the years of repeated abuse by many companies towards their clients." From the consumer organization they draw attention to how fast and easy it is to contract with much faster response times and, on the other hand, how difficult it is to receive information about the price, the services you receive and, above all, the response to a claim when you are already a customer and pay religiously every month. “However, the norm can remain a dead letter, if the Autonomous Communities, those in charge of monitoring and sanctioning non-compliance, do not comply with their obligation,” warns Izverniceanu.

Despite the fact that telephony is one of the sectors that receives the most criticism from users, from the CECU they point out that today carrying out portability is much simpler than a few years ago. The procedures have improved due to their greater speed and convenience. However, from the CECU they do warn of problems after the change with irregular overcharges. In these cases, it is possible to file a complaint since the law does not allow clauses that make it possible to force payment for services that have not been provided.

From Rastreator they talk about a very competitive market and a price war. “Offering exclusive offers to try to retain the user and thus avoid portability is one of the most widespread common practices. At present, the trend is usually to lower the rate or retain the customer by linking other products and services, "explains Rastreator's customer service manager, Rocío Esteban.

Penalty clauses, one of the main impediments when contracting a line with a company, are becoming less frequent. «It is no longer common to see this type of practice except in contracts that were signed long ago and in which a clause with said penalty was included. If the collection of penalties does not explicitly appear in the contract, the companies will not be able to claim it from their clients”, adds Esteban.

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