It is an accepted part of life in Spain that eventually everybody will have a negative Telefonica/Movistar experience. It took a full four years of living in Spain for my turn to arrive but here is the ongoing saga of my current Movistar experience. Movistar own O2 in the United Kingdom as well as in many other countries across Europe. I think I understand how considered incompetence has given them the financial strength to buy so many national telephone companies.
In October 2010 I moved house. The chalet I moved to had never had a fixed telephone line installed but a call to Movistar (Telefonica as it was then) revealed that a fixed line was available. The installation, although much later than originally promised, was carried out and the telephone line worked. I had rejected the offer of Internet with the same company. Movistar had assured me that the Internet available in my area was upto 10Mb. I was surprised therefore when the company delivering the Internet provided my high speed ADSL service at speeds of only 3Mb. I should add that the Internet installation was considerably slower with the Internet company accusing Movistar of deliberately stalling the process.
I should warn that at about this point my conspiracy theories began to service. Within a few weeks of the telephone installation Movistar began a regular contact offering me an Internet service of either upto 10Mb or upto 6Mb depending on the day. Each time I politely declined despite the sales calls becoming ever more persistent.
Eventually in autumn of 2012 I went to make a telephone call only to find the line was dead. When I called Movistar the conversation went more or less as follows.
Me: Hello, my telephone line doesn’t seem to be working. Could you possibly check it for me please?
(After checking name, social security number etc)
Movistar: We have cut the line Sir because you have not paid your bill.
Me: I’ve paid every bill you’ve sent. Can you check that please?
Movistar: (After a short pause.) The problem Sir is we don’t have an address for you so we are not able to send the bill.
Me: But you’ve always sent me a bill. Why would you not have an address now?
Movistar: Your address doesn’t exist Sir so we can’t send the bill.
Me: The address does exist. I’m calling you now from the address. The chalet is exactly where it was when you sent your engineer to install the line two years ago. It is in the same place as where you have sent bills for the last two years.
Movistar: It isn’t on our database Sir.
Me: OK, so what do I need to do to get my telephone working again?
The answer is that a late payment of a bill (plus an expensive and unavoidable reconnection fee) can only be made in cash at a post office. After paying the bill the line was soon activated. This whole process repeated two months later. Against all the odds I then managed to convince Movistar to send the bills to an address that although not available on their system I could vouch, did in fact exist.
Fast forward to January 2013. At the end of January 2013 I received a double bill. I assumed something must be outstanding from the time of my address not existing soaked the bill in full. On Tuesday 26th February the line was cut. The following is the edited highlights of my last week of communication with Movistar.
Tuesday 26th February: The telephone line is cut at about 7pm. I know this is true as we were using the Internet after work and the service cut early in the evening.
Wednesday 27th February: I called Movistar to be told that the bill they had sent in January that I had paid in full was not in fact my full bill. There was an outstanding balance of just under thirty nine euros from November when they were unable to send me a bill excuse the address did not exist. If I went to the post office and paid the bill the line would immediately be reactivated. I paid the bill but the line was not reactivated.
Thursday 28th February: I called Movistar to ask why the line has not been reactivated. They told me it is because they have deleted my number. I will now need to apply for a new number. After protesting they confirm my old number is available and will be immediately activated.
Friday 1st March: The line is still dead so I phone to ask why. I am assured that the line will be activated immediately.
Saturday 2nd March: The line is still dead so I phone to ask why. I am told that when I had been informed yesterday that the line would be activated immediately this actually meant the process of reactivating the line would begin immediately. The process will take 24 hours and therefore on Sunday afternoon the line will become active.
Sunday 3rd March: The line is still dead.
Monday 4th March: The line is still dead so I phone to ask when it might be reactivated. The customer services lady informs me that the line was cut on the 7th December because a bill had not been paid. I tell her this is wrong, but also out of date information. I relay the conversations of the previous days. She tells me that it is not possible to connect me to the landline department because they are not answering the telephone and because she works in the mobile department she is not allowed to access my account. She takes my mobile number and assures me I will receive a telephone call very soon from the landline department.
Tuesday 5th March: The line is still dead. Tonight’s telephone conversation confirms that the information about being able to reinstate the line in 24 hours was false. I will need to raise an order for a new line and that process can take from 7-10 working days. Combining gets me nowhere except more frustrated so I raid the order the new line.
Finally, in the middle of March after many difficulties, the line was reconnected using the original number. The magical way of getting the reconnection ‘fast-tracked’ turned out to be to accept the Telefonica Internet package and drop my current Internet Service Provider. This then elevated me to the position of priority customer as I was new to the Telefonica Internet solution. Of course, the promise of doubling my Internet speed to 6Mb was a hollow one but with that accepted my Telefonica nightmare has ended and all is once again normal.
Fighting an overly complex system is one of the challenges of living in Spain. It seems as though there are numerous opportunities for simple processes to be made more complicated, often with a complete disregard to customer service. That said, it is May and Spanish summer will soon be here with long warm evenings and the opportunity to forget the obstinance of Telefonica and enjoy the fresh air.