Sunday 28 December 2014

Telecoms watchdog demands report on Eircom bill blunder

Charlie Weston Personal Finance Editor

Published 05/04/2014 | 02:30

THE telecoms regulator has demanded a report from Eircom on the payments debacle that saw 30,000 families hit with bumper bills.

Regulator ComReg also revealed that it was not told by Eircom that thousands of customers had built up arrears because of a billing blunder by the telecoms operator.

Now the regulator has told customers who are unhappy with the response they get from Eircom to contact it to get the matter resolved. Eircom has been forced to apologise for an embarrassing blunder that saw 30,000 customers facing huge one-off bills, after a mess-up where the company failed to collect direct debits for more than three months.

The bills, many of which will be backdated to the start of the year, could come in at up to €500 each.

The company admitted the error and said that payment would be sought from customers in their next bill. It has refused to put in place an across-the-board credit on the bills of the customers affected.

A spokesman for the telecoms regulator said: "ComReg can confirm that it has requested a report on the matter from Eircom as ComReg was not made aware of the issue by Eircom.

MIX-UP

"ComReg will review the report on receipt to ascertain what issues are within its remit and will communicate further with the public on this matter, as appropriate." The spokesman urged Eircom customers affected by the mix-up to contact Eircom on 1800303432 in the first instance.

"If, having contacted Eircom, customers are not satisfied with the outcome, they should then contact ComReg," the regulator said.

Eircom has rejected a demand from the Consumers' Association to give customers a credit on their bills for at least half of the outstanding amounts. The company has instead said it wants the money due paid when the next bill arrives, but has told those with financial difficulties to talk to it on a one-to-one basis.

Labour senator Lorraine Higgins said that ordinary customers should not be expected to pay in full as a result of Eircom's technical debacle.

She pointed out that customers could be facing bills of up to €500 following a failure by the company to process direct debit payments since January.

"This is outrageous behaviour from the largest telecommunications operator in the Republic towards its customers.

"Eircom is taking absolutely no responsibility for addressing this oversight at all.

"All we have heard is an apology, that the error has now been amended and details of how they intend to process the outstanding payments," the senator said.

She said she had written to Eircom chief executive officer Herb Hribar to demand that the company take responsibility for the matter

"At the very least, I will urge the company to spread out the accrued money owed over several bills, instead of hammering customers with one super-bill."

Irish Independent

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