Cafés, Health Insurance… too often public services cannot be contacted by telephone, the accusations of 60 million consumers

A survey by 60 Millions de consommateurs magazine accused public services of being too often unreachable by telephone. Lead health insurance.

At what age can I retire? How do I get a Vitale card? Often, public services are unreachable by phone for users seeking information but with poor internet skills, the “60 million consumers” magazine criticized Thursday 26 January.

Calls ring in the void, answers don’t quite fit… Obtaining information or explaining procedures is too often a hurdle for users accustomed to the web, according to a survey conducted by the newspaper With Defenders’ Rights.

While the dematerialization of public services is accelerating, these access problems are all the more glaring as 15% of French people do not have an internet connection at home and 28% do not consider themselves capable of carrying out administrative procedures online – even among young people, they said.

“Unfortunately, people who are not comfortable with the internet have a lot of difficulties even to access information about their rights,” complained journalist Lionel Maugain, one of the article’s authors, told AFP. parents, precarious or strangers.

Referral… to the internet

In this context, 1,532 calls were made, between September 26 and November 10, 2022, by callers representing three types of users (one person without internet, another with internet but poor French, a person of mature age with internet), as well as by callers ” lambda” to check for differential treatment.

Admittedly, some progress has been made since the previous survey conducted in 2016: calls are no longer overcharged, general friendliness is the order of the day and there is no longer any blatant discrimination associated with user origin. But important drawbacks remain.

Stupid hat goes to Health Insurance. Of the 302 calls made to find out about formalities to obtain or update vital cards, 72% were unsuccessful (three attempts failed with a five minute wait each). “And even when you are lucky enough to have someone, the same thing happens”, Lionel Maugain noted during the press conference: only 22% of successful calls received an “acceptable response”, and less than 5% of “accurate answers” .

Like other organizations, Health Insurance highlighted the magazine’s recruitment difficulties for its phone platform in the face of an explosion in call numbers since the health crisis. In his case, the number has more than doubled since fall 2019, to 3.2 million per month.

At the Family Allowance Fund (CAF), asked about housing assistance, 54% of 408 calls had no one on the line. Here too, when taken, the answer is insufficient or refers to … the internet. Only a minority of agents offer over-the-counter appointments or home delivery of paper files. “Solutions exist but are offered very rarely, which plunges users into chaos and can come to the denial of their rights”, notes Lionel Maugain.

“Misunderstood Galaxy”

Pôle employ does little well: 84% of calls are successful, but with answers that are not always satisfactory or imprecise. As for the Pension Insurance Fund, 72% of calls were successful but again, answers about possible retirement ages, pre-reform, were irrelevant in most cases.

Asked by AFP, the organization did not immediately react. “When you don’t get an answer, actually when you give up, it’s called non-recourse”, explains Rights Defender, Claire Hédon, on the RMC microphone. Like him, “60 million consumers” called for legislation enacting multiple means of access to public services as well as the creation of local counters that bring together representatives from each organization.

They also require delivery of hard copies of any rights notices, as well as use of non-jargonal vocabulary. “Administration must adapt to the users and not the other way around”, emphasized Lionel Maugain. Because “even if we have the internet, we can run into administrative problems and find ourselves in a galaxy of misunderstandings”.

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