Monday 25 September 2017

Telecoms watchdog slams Eir for 'unfair' systems

Comreg chairman Gerry Fahy
Comreg chairman Gerry Fahy
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Ireland’s telecoms watchdog has threatened further action against Eir after a report it commissioned found that the state’s largest operator does not have ‘compliant’ systems in place to treat rivals fairly.

Citing “serious concerns” over the “quality of Eir’s regulatory governance”, Comreg said that it may now consider new regulatory measures targeting Eir.

“It is apparent that Eir’s regulatory governance arrangements including its RGM 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.”

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 have 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. “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 that 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 industry has to offer.”

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.

The report is the latest in a long line of regulatory problems between Eir and Ireland’s 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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