French company Altice, owner of Portuguese telecoms provider Meo, has started charging its customer €1 each time it sends them a bill through the post.
Consumer rights organisation, Deco, has slammed the practice as totally illegal but Altice has hit back, claiming Deco’s objections have besmirched its reputation.
"Deco has already denounced this practice to Anacom - Autoridade Nacional de Comunicações and will continue to monitor this situation. If you have received notice that you will be charged €1 for receiving an invoice through the post, contact our offices," reads a note on Deco’s website.
Deco says it already has received "numerous complaints concerning the intention of Meo / Altice to start charging its customers on April 1st the sum of €1 for each monthly bill if they do not opt for an electronic invoice."
A hard copy invoice, "is a consumer right, not a service that needs paying for," Deco explained, arguing that such a charge constitutes "a serious and manifestly illegal injury" to telecoms customers.
"Receiving free invoices for the services provided is a right of consumers and a duty of service providers," warns the association, noting that the Essential Public Services Act "clearly states" consumers’ right to a regular, posted invoice.
The association also alleges that the Law on the Protection of Personal Data and Privacy in Telecommunications stipulates that, in the case of the provision of electronic communications services, the consumer is entitled to a free invoice. This right also is guaranteed by the Electronic Communications Law.
"And you can never argue that this legal obligation to issue a free invoice is fully met through an electronic version, since not all consumers have or are required to have an email address," concluded the consumer’s champion.
Altice, founded in 2001 by entrepreneur Patrick Drahi who bought Portugal Telecom in 2015, says there must be some misunderstanding. In a statement sent to newsrooms, Altice says that Deco "promoted a serious misconception which is lacking in truth and thus penalised, in a serious and unjustified way, the reputation of Altice Portugal."
Altice, based in the Netherlands for tax purposes, assures anyone who will listen that it is scrupulously within the law in all its dealings.
The company says that "as a way of aligning its conduct with best practices at an international and national level, Altice Portugal has been encouraging its customers to opt for an electronic invoice,” which is in strict compliance with the law and with the contract.
Altice adds that, "at no time has there been a question over making invoices available without a cost to the customer,” but ANACOM, the telecommunications regulator, stated today that, "customers have the right to receive invoices for the services provided to them" at no cost.