I sometimes get complaints that the blog is negative and too critical. That’s rubbish, I criticise when there’s a reason to criticise.

However, I do like to think I give credit where it is due.

And Anatel, the regulatory agency for Brazil’s telecommunications industry, deserves a pat on the back today for slapping a sales ban on three of the top four cell phone companies.

Anatel told Oi, Tim and Claro that they can’t sell new lines to clients until they improve their current service.

Anyone who lives in Brazil and has a cell phone will be overjoyed at the news. The cell phone companies here are a disgrace. They treat Brazilian customers like fools.

Think I am exaggerating? Well, look at the difference with which Telefonica treats its clients in Brazil and the UK.

In the UK, Telefonica owns O2. Last week, many O2 consumers were without cell phone service for 24 hours because of technical problems.

What did Telefonica do? It offered those affected the “equivalent of three days back for the disruption as a gesture of goodwill and to say sorry,” according to this story in Yahoo. That’s three days free service.

And if that weren’t enough, it will send every one of its UK customers a £10 O2 voucher to spend in one of its stores.

In Brazil, meanwhile, Telefonica comes sixth on the list of most complained about companies (at least in Sao Paulo, the country’s biggest market and the only one I can find details for). Three of the top 10 most hated firms are cell phone companies. See the 2011 list here.

And what has Telefonica done to provide solace or reparations to those millions of long-suffering Brazilians? Nada.

The Financial Times in this piece, suggests that the blame for the poor service in Brazil lies, at least in part, with Anatel itself. That might be true.

But the bottom line is that the telephone companies have been abusing Brazilian consumers for years, providing a truly terrible service at inflated prices.

Congratulations to Anatel for finally recognising that something should be done. I hope it’s the first of many similar acts.