Wednesday 12 December 2018

Are you a Three customer? You may be due a refund - or allowed leave your contract early without penalty

Mobile firm slapped with €575,000 fine for messing up customer contract changes

Mobile firm slapped with €575,000 fine for messing up customer contract changes (stock photo)
Mobile firm slapped with €575,000 fine for messing up customer contract changes (stock photo)
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

If you’re a Three customer, you may be due a refund or permission to leave your contract early without penalty.

Ireland’s second largest mobile company has been fined €575,000 by the telecoms watchdog Comreg for messing up contract changes to 1.3m customers earlier this year.

The company didn’t convey the changes properly, while an 1800 telephone number it set up to deal with it wasn’t adequately manned.

"There was a failure by Three to properly advise its customers of the nature of the contract changes proposed," said Comreg’s enforcement notice.

"And to adequately facilitate their right to exit their contracts without penalty, after being notified of the proposed contractual changes."

That meant that some people who were dissatisfied with the service could not leave without paying a big early termination fee or switching to a more suitable package within Three itself.

Comreg also found that Three unfairly stopped people from trying to switch operators when they knew there was a problem.

"There was a failure by Three to ensure that its conditions and procedures for contract termination did not act as a disincentive to consumers changing service provider," said the regulator.

A spokeswoman for Three said that it had "been in discussions with ComReg about how we communicated and implemented changes to some customers’ contracts earlier this year".

She said: "steps have now been put in place to avoid similar issues in the future".

Comreg says that the operator has now pledged:

-          its customers will be able to notify Three of their cancellation request “by phone, post, online chat, or by visiting a retail store” and “Three will promptly confirm such cancellation requests using the same channel of communication”

-          its call centres will be “fully resourced” to deal with all expected call volumes on foot of any contract change notifications issued by Three

-          to refund any customer that was charged an early termination fee or any other penalty as a result of withdrawal from their contract within the ‘Regulation 14 Window’ of time (30 days)

-          to re-notifiy “certain customers” of their contract changes that came into effect on 3 April 2017 and advised the customers of their right to withdraw without penalty if they did not wish to accept the changes

-          to contact all customers “that it could identify” that tried and were unable to contact Three on the 1800 number provided in their contract change notification. “In these cases, Three committed to remedy the situation to their customers’ satisfaction, including offering them 30 days to exit their contract without penalty,” said Comreg.

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