UPC hits customers with €84 price increase in annual bills
CUSTOMERS of TV and telecoms company UPC will be hit by a hike of up to €84 in their annual bills.
The company has just introduced a hefty increase in charges, including a €3.75 a month "payment administration fee" for those who don't pay by direct debit.
However, UPC said last night this was not a new charge as it simply replaced their old "non direct debit" charge.
Customers were previously paying €3.04 per bill -- every month or two months -- if they didn't take the direct debit option, but this is going up by 23pc to €3.75 per month. UPC is also hiking its late-payment fee by 25pc, from €10 to €12.50.
The company said that customers would have their bills increased by an average of 3pc. However, it refused to give a full breakdown of the range of price increases and how they would affect different categories of customers -- such as TV only, or broadband only.
It cited "commercial confidentiality" as a reason for refusing to disclose this information.
The company is writing to all customers individually to inform them of the changes to their bills, a spokesman said.
One outraged customer said he had just received a letter telling him his monthly charge for a TV, broadband and homephone package would be going up by €5.36 a month, along with the increased €3.75 payment administration fee.
The increases would amount to €84.84 a year which represents a 6pc hike on his yearly bills, which already total €120 a month or €1,440 a year.
"I don't see how they can justify charging customers an extra €85 on top of their existing bills in the current climate," he said.
UPC said it was rolling out price increases averaging around 3pc for customers.
"In terms of general rationale, rising operational costs have necessitated some price increases in the current year but these are being kept to the minimum possible," a spokesperson said.
"The proposed price changes average at 3pc. There is also a discount available for customers who pay by direct debit. Customers can also possibly get further discounts from the increase by changing their packages".
Regarding the payment administration charge, he said around 80pc of new customers signed up to direct debit or the autopay system.
"The important thing to state is that customers have plenty of options to avoid paying this charge and the vast majority of new customers are happy to either pay by direct debit or use the autopay method," he said.
UPC has 922,600 customers in Ireland, including 384,900 on digital TV packages.
It has seen particularly strong growth in subscription to its bundled TV, broadband and phone services, taking on an extra 110,900 of them in the last year.
However, competition with Sky has been intense, with the companies launching new products such as TV on demand and added channels, in a bid to sign up subscribers.
Both companies are also attempting to stave off the threat posed by new free-to-air digital services, including RTE's Saorview and BBC's Freesat services, which allow customers to get hundreds of channels free without ongoing subscriptions.