French Phone Numbers: A Method to the Madness

For Americans used to toll-free helplines, living in France, land of service calls that require you to pay for help from them, can be a bit of a shocker.  But there are toll-free numbers here too.   And among the phone numbers that are paying, there is a gradation to how much these calls cost.  Here are some tips on how to make sense of it all.  Caller beware:  the specifics of your own phone contract — landline, ADSL,or mobile — may affect the amount you pay for making these calls.  Check the fine print.

In general, numbers that start 0800, 00800, 0804, 0805, 0809 are considered numéros verts and calls to these numbers are free from a fixed phone line.   

Numbers beginning with 0810, 0811, 0819,  and 0860 are called numéros azur.  You may call these for the price of a local call.

Other numbers beginning with 08 may be called for a fee.   Charges mount progressively beginning with minumum charges of 0.12 € per minute and going up to a flat fee of 1.34 €  per call plus 0.34 € per minute.  Fortunately, you do not pay for any time spent on hold.

Certain hotlines are supposed to be free, such as those for customers to follow up after a sale or with a technical problem, or those of your own phone service.   The rules are confusing, however, and even if you technically have the right to appeal charges, it’s probably not worth your while.  Instead, if you have a concern about phone charges, check the fine print before you dial and use a fixed line rather than your mobile phone.

There are also numéros courts which have just four digits.  Those beginning with 30 or 31 are free; all others are paying.

If you are serious about saving money, there are a number of Web sites you can consult that publish the free numbers for reaching enterprises that may only be advertising the numbers for which charges apply.   We can’t vouch for these sites but take a look if you so choose:

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