Eircom snubs request from regulator over cash payments
EIRCOM has flouted a request by the telephone regulator to abandon its plans to clamp down on householders who pay their phone bills in small cash instalments.
The phone company is forging ahead with plans to force customers who pay their bills in weekly cash instalments to pay a minimum of €20 a time.
Paying bills in cash instalments in post offices is a method favoured by many elderly people and social welfare recipients who survive on weekly State payments, and who must budget their income accordingly.
ComReg, the agency responsible for regulating telecoms, has asked Eircom to reverse its decision because of the impact on "vulnerable" customers, "in light of the serious and well-grounded concerns voiced by many stake holders".
Eircom, however, has ignored the request and will circulate letters to customers this week advising them of the change, which comes into effect from October 1.
Eircom has angered lobby groups representing the elderly and the unemployed, who say it will add to pressures on people who are already struggling to make ends meet.
Officials from the Money Advisory and Budgeting Service met Eircom representatives last week to voice their concerns over the effect of the change on vulnerable people. Age Action Ireland has also complained.
It argues that the change will predominantly affect people on low weekly incomes who pay off their bills in small weekly amounts of €5 or €10 by necessity rather than by choice.
Eircom has insisted that there are many alternatives to paying by cash: "It does not affect the household budget scheme or the Post Point retail outlets operated by An Post."