Saturday 22 July 2017

Telecoms watchdog critical of Eir over 'lack of compliance systems'

Comreg said it may now consider new regulatory measures targeting Eir
Comreg said it may now consider new regulatory measures targeting Eir

Adrian Weckler Technology Editor

The telecoms watchdog has threatened further action against Eir after a new report found that the State's largest operator does not have satisfactory systems in place to treat rivals fairly.

Citing "serious concerns" over the "quality of Eir's regulatory governance", Comreg said it may now consider new regulatory measures targeting Eir.

Separately, Comreg is seeking to impose fines, potentially reaching millions of euro, in a High Court action involving related unfair treatment of rival telecoms operators.

"It is apparent that Eir's regulatory governance arrangements, including its RGM (regulatory governance model), are not likely to enable Eir to ensure compliance with its regulatory obligations," said a Comreg statement.

"This is a matter of significant concern to Comreg.

"Given the seriousness of the contents of the reports, Comreg believes that it is appropriate to initiate a project to identify what regulatory measures would be appropriate."

A report by KPMG and consultancy firm Cartesian criticised Eir's processes, concluding that many did not encourage regulatory compliance.

At issue is whether Eir's wholesale arm is continuing to favour its own company's retail business over retail businesses of other telecoms firms.

Irish law requires Eir to offer rival companies the same conditions and repair times as its own retail wing. But competitors have continually complained about not getting equal treatment to Eir's own retail division on a number of issues.

A spokesman for Alto, the lobby group representing rival operators, such as BT and Vodafone, said that its members had experienced "a material impact" on their business as a result of regulatory problems involving Eir.

"Comreg is to be highly commended for undertaking proper and thorough independent analysis of what industry has long suspected to be systemic regulatory and governance failings," said Ronan Lupton, chairman of Alto.

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"These failings arise in light of clear admissions by Eir, in many instances, or by compliance activity undertaken by ComReg."

A spokesman for Eir said it would remain "fully engaged" with Comreg on the issue.

"This is the latest development in the ongoing review of the regulatory governance model," said the spokesman.

"We remain fully engaged with Comreg. We are interested in what comments the industry has to offer."

The spokesman said much of the initiative regarding reform of Eir's wholesale behaviour had come from the company itself.

The firm had fixed some processes and remained committed to resolving all issues.

Comreg is giving Eir until September to come up with "legally binding" changes to its oversight systems. It has also invited responses from other telecoms operators on the process.

However, this week's action from Comreg represents the latest in a long line of regulatory problems to have arisen between Eir and the telecoms watchdog.

Comreg has taken court action against the operator relating to five separate findings of regulatory breaches in the last six years.

"A number of other investigations are also ongoing, including investigations which are concerned with matters addressed in the advisors' reports," said the Comreg statement.

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Irish Independent

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