Are Chilean Telcom’s the Worst in the World?

By Christian Scheinpflug

Raising this question hints at the sorry state of telcom services of Latin America’s supposed high-tech Wunderkind. One provider had a customer waiting for a year until mercifully fixing internet access. Of course, the customer had to pay nevertheless, because technically the company was providing a service, and the contract said nothing about usability, and while changing the provider is possible, services rarely improve in Chile’s concentrated telcom market.

One of the biggest providers, Spanish-owned Movistar, is currently tormenting customers in the community of Lomas de Lo Aguirre on the outskirts of Santiago. There, Movistar is leaving its customers without phone and internet for four weeks and counting, starting on April 4th when a distribution centre malfunctioned. The company released a note explaining that only phone services have been affected and a solution is imminent. Apart from that, Movistar remains idle, preferring instead lies and stonewalling.

Calling the support two days after phone and internet access died, call centre operatives promised to send a technician — who never arrived. Demanding an explanation, Movistar employees subsequently coldly explained that the technician didn’t bother because of the malfunction of the centre. So much for valuing customers.

Desperate and upset calls elicited more lies from Movistar: Operators assured a visit had now really been scheduled — the day went by; they explained the centre was still broken but would work tomorrow — tomorrow never came; they apologised for faulty cables in the neighbourhood — without showing interest in fixing the cables. Adding further insult, technicians are contacting customers themselves promising imminent arrival, but then claiming no one was home, when in reality tenants had their anxious eyes on the driveway all day.

Such hideous behaviour strains not only energy from citizens, but also drains productivity from business activity and impedes familial life. If the country has genuine conservatives they should take interest in boosting consumer rights and heavily regulate telcoms. Even if no such interest exists, the worsening ILI epidemic (Ignorance, Laziness, Incompetence), reflected in Movistar’s behaviour but common in many industries and public services, must be tackled anyway.

If you want to live a modern live in Chile, with internet access and all that, or if you must run your business here, may God have mercy — telcoms won’t.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Santiago Times.