SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

OPINION & ANALYSIS

‘Hellish odyssey’: Why cancelling my Italian phone contract took six months

Ending a contract with your phone or wifi provider in Italy can be trickier than you might expect. Reporter Silvia Marchetti shares her "nightmare" experience and explains the steps to be aware of.

'Hellish odyssey': Why cancelling my Italian phone contract took six months
Knowing what to expect before you start can take some of the stress out of cancelling an Italian phone contract. Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

Signing contracts with phone providers takes just a few minutes but getting rid of them by shutting down landlines and Wi-Fi services may take months.

It can be a real nightmare, as all telecom carriers have pretty much the same rules of cessazione del contratto (contract termination). 

You find yourself left hanging while automatic answering machines and ‘virtual assistants’ drive you crazy. Then, when you manage to get through to a real person, you spend hours talking with different customer service call centers across Europe to make sure your request has gone through.

But in the meantime, while you wait to sever ties with the phone company, you keep paying the monthly bills until it is certain that you are no longer their client.

They make it really hard for you. I spent half of this year chasing after my phone carrier to cancel the contract as I was paying for very poor, glitchy WiFi. The real problem is having to deal with many different call center staff to whom you have to explain the whole story from the beginning, and they often don’t speak Italian or English well.

READ ALSO: How to use your Italian ID card to access official services online

The first thing I did is to call the customer service and communicate that I no longer wanted to be their client explaining the reason, they said, ‘OK, it is done, no worries, within the next 30 days (the time needed to process the request) your contract will end’. 

Make sure you always ask for the ‘numero pratica’ (procedure number) for when you need to follow up. 

But of course it couldn’t be that simple. They told me I would be getting a confirmation sms on my mobile within the next 72 hours. That never happened, so I called back and this time they said I had to wait for the operator itself to call me to ask if I really wanted to cancel my contract, to double confirm the request. 

I received two phone calls after three weeks, during my working hours when I couldn’t answer, and each time I called back I was told I had to wait for another call.

Few people are aware of the tricky fact that if you do not verbally re-confirm the termination request it is void.

Months passed by and nobody called. Four times I picked up the carrier’s call and the connection broke off just as I said ‘Buongiorno’, so I called back the customer service and was told (by what must have been the ninth person I spoke to) that a verbal cancellation request isn’t enough, and the only way to make sure it went through was emailing the request to the company with my landline number and a copy of my ID.

I sent an email and it bounced back, so I sent a PEC, or ‘certified’ email – including the numero di pratica – and made sure I received confirmation that it had safely landed in the recipient’s mailbox.

You’ll need to beome familiar with Italy’s registered email (PEC) system. Photo: Mario Laporta/AFP

I waited, another two months went by and I had to keep paying the bills as my WiFi and phone services were still ‘on’ but no internet whatsoever. So I decided not to pay them anymore, or delay the payment deadline. That’s when the carrier started sending a private postman to deliver a notification of unpaid pending bills. 

It turned into a six-month hellish odyssey, almost every morning I called the customer service asking about my request status and they would reply I had to wait for the verbal confirmation call from the carrier. I gave them three other numbers they could reach of my relatives to increase the chances that if the operator did call, someone could confirm the deactivation.

The most frustrating aspect, as with most bureaucratic issues in Italy, is that la mano destra non sa cosa fa la sinistra (the right hand doesn’t know what the left one is doing) meaning each call center agent would say the opposite from another, unaware even that I had forwarded a PEC. So you start quarrelling over the phone, and it does no good.

In August, finally, after re-sending the PEC four times, someone from the phone company reached one of the numbers I had left, belonging to a person who lives with me, who verbally confirmed that I no longer wanted to be their client. Three weeks later my landline and WiFi were dead.

READ ALSO: Disappearing PECs: How lost emails can land you with big fines in Italy

As a result, I now solely rely on mobile connection and ‘fear like the plague’, as my granny used to say, getting entangled again in another phone carrier’s trap. 

This has taught me never to believe when a provider says all you need to do is tell them over the phone ‘hey I want to cancel my contract’, and then wait for their call to confirm it.

There’s an ancient Latin saying: verba volant, scripta manent (spoken words fly away, written ones remain). Sending an official request via PEC to the correct addresses, with numero di pratica, is the best thing to do. 

Calling up a few times to make sure your pratica has been approved is key, if so, make sure you ask the person you talk to send you via email a confirmation that on set date your landline will cease and you will no longer be paying bills.

If too much time goes by, and you keep getting bills, feel free not to pay them. When the phone carrier realizes this it will simply cut off your landline, which is exactly what you want, and there are no legal risks given the PEC was delivered months before.

This however is possible only if you pay the monthly bills by credit card or bollettino postale (postal payment slip). If you have a direct debit (RID) it’s best to rush to your bank to deactivate it when you make the official cancellation request. 

Credit cards can also be tricky: every month for five years I created a ‘virtual card’ to pay my bills and avoid fraud, but often the carrier’s online payment platform wouldn’t accept it. In the end this also wore me out. 

Phone and internet companies should make customers’ lives easy, not complicate things. In Italy however few things run smoothly. 

If you’ve cancelled a phone or internet contract in Italy, what was your experience? Have you got any tips for other readers? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Member comments

  1. Hi Silvia, interesting and traumatising experience you had with your telecom company. Imagine how hard it would be to call if you only have a smattering of Italian language. Something I learned very early on when I arrived in Italy 10 years ago was nobody, no matter who they are responds to email or PEC mail. I was told in my very early days simply cancel all direct debit payments and write by recorded delivery to head office giving 30 day’s notice of termination and ignore everything that they may send you and of course don’t use their service. Apparently that works. I have broadband with WindTre and if you go to their online terms and conditions you can download a termination of service form to complete and send to head office. I haven’t tried it yet but expect to early next year when I change my broadband service. I will of course cancel my DD after 30 days has expired. Kind regards Ian.

  2. Earlier this year I switched my landline and internet from TIM to Vodafone and I have to say it went really smoothly. Vodafone handled the practical side and I just had to confirm with TIM. I only wanted to switch because Vodafone were offering a much better deal. TIM were only offering a similar deal to new users. Even after trying to persuade TIM to offer me the same deal rather than lose a customer there was no budging.

  3. Whilst we had a nightmare transferring our TIM landline from one address to another within the same commune (it took two years and the intervention of the sindiaco).
    However when fibre optic broadband became available and we transferred from TIM to Windtre the switch over happened within two weeks, because we used the transfer code available on every telephone bill we received.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

LIVING IN ITALY

13 ways to make your life in Italy easier without really trying

Living in Italy can be challenging, with bureaucracy, local dialects and new customs to get used to. Here are some tips on how to make life easier without too much effort involved.

13 ways to make your life in Italy easier without really trying

Italy is a great place to live, with (mostly) warm weather, breathtaking landscapes, and a relaxed lifestyle.

But everyday life might be challenging at first, especially for those coming from totally different cultures and ways of life.

So if you feel like your stay in the country could do with a little boost, here are some tips that The Local’s readers (and writers) swear by. 

Always carry cash

Though things have changed quite a bit over the past few years and more shops are now accepting card payments, cash is still very much king in Italy. 

All Italian businesses are legally required to accept card payments, but many merchants across the boot are not very fond of those rules – mostly because each card transaction comes with an average 0.7 percent processing fee – and would rather risk getting a fine than have their clients pay by card. 

READ ALSO: Are Italian taxi drivers required to accept card payments?

So, it’s not uncommon at all to come across places that only accept cash or produce hardly believable excuses (e.g., “our card machine is out of order”). As such, you should always have some notes on you.

Buy ear plugs 

Sleep, and especially good sleep, plays a vital role in good health and well-being, but there are plenty of things that will get in the way of it in Italy.

Whether it’s a pesky neighbour using the aspirapolvere (vacuum) at the most unreasonable time of the day or construction workers running wild early-morning experiments on human noise tolerance, you should try to block any unwanted noise with a good pair of ear plugs. 

Get professonal help with bureaucracy 

Paperwork in Italy is a bit like the Fast & Furious movie franchise. Whenever you think you may have seen the last of it, there’s always more.

In fact the endless red tape is so frustrating and time-consuming that many Italians, when possible, hire a professional to help. 

Accountants and lawyers are not cheap, but can save you a lot of time, if not money in the long run, and their help will greatly improve your chances of success. 

Professional signing papers

Seeking professional help is the best way to navigate Italian bureaucracy. Photo by Scott GRAHAM via Unsplash

Mind your emails

Those who have the fortune (or misfortune, you decide) to work with Italian colleagues or for Italian clients, may already know this: Italian emails read more like a 19th-century epistolary novel than actual emails. 

From obsolete greetings and sign-off lines to various personal titles and odd abbreviations, Italian emails are generally quite stiff and formal. 

It may feel unnatural or irritating, but take your colleagues’ lead on this and strive to abide by the Italian style rules so as to avoid coming off as dismissive or impolite. 

Learn at least the basics of Italian (and some dialect)

This one does require a bit of effort, but it’s essential. Most Italians have a poor command of English, which makes learning Italian an absolute must.

Not having any Italian language skills will make your daily interactions much more stressful than they need to be and will seriously handicap your social life. As such, you should try to achieve basic proficiency at the very least.

READ ALSO: Five tips that make it easier to learn Italian

It might also be useful to pick up some words or expressions from your local dialect as you go along as residents love to use it when communicating with each other.

Embrace Italian habits

From the cappuccino+cornetto (cappuccino and croissant) combo for breakfast to the restorative post-lunch pennichella (nap), you might want to adopt at least some of Italy’s particular traditions.

Aside from the likely health and well-being benefits, doing so will also make you feel more in tune with your new home.

READ ALSO: 17 ways your eating and drinking habits change when you live in Italy

A cup of coffee being prepared

Expect coffee to be the cornerstone of your life in Italy. Photo by Jess EDDY via Unsplash

Forget about being punctual 

Italians are chronically late and that’s not going to change (or, at least, not anytime soon).

As a result, you can pretty much forget all you know about being punctual and adapt to the collective lateness.

For instance, if you and a local friend of yours plan to meet at 2.30pm, you’ll want to turn up at about 2.45 or even 2.50 to avoid twiddling your thumbs for a good quarter of an hour.

It’s worth noting however that you shouldn’t apply the above rule to your work meetings nor to other official appointments.

Get nerdy with mobile apps

However surprising you might find it, Italy seems to have finally caught up with the digital revolution as the popularity of mobile apps keeps growing by the day. 

As a resident, you should be taking advantage of some of these new online services to make your life a tad easier.

READ ALSO: Six essential apps that make life in Rome easier for foreign residents

Useful apps include: Moovit (for public transport), Enjoy (car-sharing), RideMovi (bike-sharing), Glovo (food delivery) and Free Now (to order a taxi).

Get a supermarket loyalty card (or more than one)

Groceries and everyday goods can be quite expensive in Italy, especially in major northern cities

And while going to the best-value supermarket in your area might allow you to save as much as 2,000 euros a year, there’s another money-saving hack that many shoppers tend to ignore: getting a supermarket loyalty card.

READ ALSO: From coffee to haircuts: How the cost of living varies around Italy

Loyalty cards will give you access to generous in-store deals and discounts on store-brand items. By accumulating loyalty points, you’ll also earn yourself the right to claim a free gift, which could be anything from tableware to home furniture. Happy days, eh?

Take advantage of the saldi

If you love a bargain, you might want to make a note of your local area’s saldi (sales) dates. 

There are two rounds of sales every year – one in the summer and one in the winter – but the start and end times vary from region to region.

READ ALSO: When do the January 2023 sales start in Italy

Discounts are usually around 20 or 30 percent but they can climb as high as 70 percent. Shops are required to display the original prices next to the discounted ones, so you’ll know exactly how much of a bargain you’re getting.

A shop's window

‘Saldi’ season is the best time of the year to go shopping in Italy. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Learn about Italy’s tax bonuses

Each year, the Italian government offers a number of tax deductions to encourage residents to engage in economy-boosting, energy-saving or otherwise worthwhile projects.

In fully Italian fashion though, the paperwork involved is usually a black hole of bureaucratic despair.

READ ALSO: From renovations to cinema tickets: The Italian tax ‘bonuses’ you could claim in 2023

That said, with the appropriate professional help (see above), you might be able to save you and your family tens of thousands of euros.

Sign up to streaming services

From dull game shows to sleep-inducing talk shows, Italian TV is for the most part utterly atrocious – something which most locals will happily admit.

In Italy, you’re better off turning to streaming platforms or resorting to alternative sources of entertainment.

Up your cleaning game

As you may already know, Italians in general have very high cleaning standards and tend to look unfavourably on people who don’t keep their homes squeaky clean at all times. 

If you don’t keep on top of the housework, there will come a time when an Italian friend or relative pays you a visit at your place – and that visit will have to be preceded by hours of deep cleaning. 

You wouldn’t want that now, would you?

Do you have any more tips on making life in Italy slightly easier? We’d love to hear them in the comments section below.

SHOW COMMENTS