Wednesday 7 December 2016

Eircom to pay €35,000 for pestering ex-customers

Tom Tuite

Published 03/11/2015 | 02:30

Eircom has been ordered to pay €35,000 to charity after pleading guilty to pestering and harassing former customers with unwanted marketing calls and text messages
Eircom has been ordered to pay €35,000 to charity after pleading guilty to pestering and harassing former customers with unwanted marketing calls and text messages

Eircom has been ordered to pay €35,000 to charity after pleading guilty to pestering and harassing former customers with unwanted marketing calls and text messages.

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Dublin District Court heard yesterday that the company, which recently re-branded itself as Eir, was the most complained-about firm in the Irish telecoms industry for breaking data protection regulations.

Judge John O'Neill said he had heard evidence of a catalogue of incidents in which the company sent messages or called former customers who had repeatedly told Eircom they did not want to be contacted.

Judge O'Neill said he noted that the company, which blamed "human error", gave promises, reassurances and undertakings. However, he said the people who complained were "blatantly ignored", and added that the company's "right hand do not know what the left hand is doing".

He noted Eircom's guilty plea, that it had apologised and that it had said it wants to put in place new measures to prevent this from happening again. The offence can result in a €5,000 fine with a recorded criminal conviction.

However, Judge O'Neill said it would be better if charities benefited. He ordered the company to give €15,000 to Pieta House, €10,000 to the Laura Lynn Children's Hospice and €10,000 to Our Lady's Children's Hospital Crumlin. He adjourned the case until December and said he will apply the Probation Act, sparing Eircom a court conviction, if the money has been donated.

Intrusion

Prosecution counsel Ronan Kennedy told the court that the company had entered guilty pleas to seven charges for breaching data protection privacy regulations.

In evidence, assistant Data Protection Commissioner Tony Delaney told the court that on May 14, 2013 he received a complaint from a former Eircom customer.

The man said he had continued to receive unsolicited calls from Eircom despite asking them to stop on each occasion.

"He was telling them on every call, 'Please do not be calling me again'," said Mr Delaney. The man believed this "represented an unwarranted intrusion into my privacy".

The data protection watchdog began an investigation in June that year, but the same man continued to get another 10 calls until March 2014. By then he had received 50 unwanted calls from the company.

Another man received a promotional text message which did not have an obligatory "opt out" feature. The same mistake was made in 11,636 text mess- ages sent out during the same marketing campaign.

The watchdog received a complaint last February from a former customer who had for several years been continually receiving telesales calls looking for her business.

This was despite her telling the company that she had no intention of returning to Eircom. Customer service apologised to her by email and told them she would be taken off their database, but that did not happen.

Last April, the commission received a complaint from a man who was getting calls offer- ing him broadband, despite the fact it was not available in his area. The calls continued, which the man believed was "bordering on harassment".

Mr Delaney said Eircom was the most complained-about firm for data breaches.

Irish Independent

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