Telco Hall of Shame: France Telecom / Orange

Inductee: France Telecom S.A.

Headquarters: France

Corporate Governance: CEO and Board Chairman: Stéphane Richard

France Telecom Board


Network Size: 226+ million people.

Countries of Operation: Armenia, Belgium, Botswana, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Egypt, France, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Equatorial Guinea, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Mauritius, Niger, Uganda, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Spain, Tunisia, Luxembourg, Vanuatu, Moldova, Poland, Portugal, Romania, United Kingdom, Dominican Republic, and Slovakia.

Finances: Reported more than 3.8 billion euro in profit in fiscal year 2011.


France Telecom, also known by its core brand Orange, is a founding member of the Industry Dialogue. France Telecom states that they are: “Committed to ensure transparency, quality, security and safety for our customers. Priorities are: Promote and ensure safe and responsible use of products and services, particularly with regard to protecting children, respecting privacy and data security.” However, their privacy policy does not refer to compliance with government requests for user information.


The Egyptian Shutdown

France Telecom’s Egyptian subsidiary, Mobinil, complied with an order from the Mubarak regime to shut down its internet and mobile phone networks during the anti-government protests in Jan. 2011, cutting off over 30 million of their mobile phone customers in Egypt. While Naguib Sawiris, then CEO of Mobinil, protested to the Minister of Communications against the order and supported the protesters, he ultimately complied due to an overriding “fiduciary duty to my shareholders.

Mobinil has been posting losses since the network shutdown, adding up to over 100 million Egyptian Pounds.

Corruption in Tunisia

After the fall of the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia, France Telecom was accused of bribing its way into the country, allegedly paying US $180 million to a company owned by one of Ben Ali’s daughters rather than to the state. France Telecom has denied the allegations.

Human Rights Assistance in Cote D’Ivoire

France Telecom’s Cote d’Ivoire subsidiary helped maintain effective access to communications during the bloody civil conflict in Cote d’Ivoire stemming from the disputed 2010 elections. Recognizing that the crisis, which led to the deaths of over one thousand, had disrupted the availability of money in the country, Orange Cote d’Ivoire provided free phone credit to all its customers, a week of free calls to a landline or Orange customer, and a week of free internet service. This was done in order to offer “support to all our customers to help them stay connected with loved ones during this difficult time.

Net Neutrality Violations

In their African networks, France Telecom has abused its market position to charge Google for carrying its traffic over their networks. Charging content providers like Google to send traffic violates the principles of Net Neutrality and sets a negative precedent that risks cutting off entire regions from accessing the open internet.

Deep Packet Inspection in Ethiopia

In May of 2012, Ethiopia’s only telecommunications company Ethio Telecom was found to have installed Deep Packet Inspection technology, exposing user communications and disrupting the Tor network. Ethio Telecom was set up by France Telecom in 2010, and was operated and managed by France Telecom until January 2013.

Labor Trouble in France

France Telecom encountered serious labor problems while undergoing a dramatic restructuring of the company. In May 2012, former CEO Didier Lombard was indicted for creating a culture of bullying and harassment, which allegedly led to the suicides of over 30 employees in 2008 and 2009.

Know something about France Telecom that we missed? Let our telco policy expert Peter Micek know, [email protected] | Public Key: 0x22510994