Eir is to ask customers to click on email links for payment of its new €5.99 Eircom.net charge from next week.
The move may draw fire from cyber-security experts, who routinely advise ordinary users not to click on links in emails as an anti-fraud precaution.
But a spokesperson for the company said that it will include the measure as one of several methods for thousands of people to start paying for its webmail.
“Payment is managed via a secure platform,” said the Eir spokesperson. “The link is emailed directly to service users. Once the customer enters their card details for payment they can continue to use their email service as usual.”
Other parts of Eir’s website warn against clicking or tapping on links in emails.
“Organisations like Eir will never ask for personal details via email,” it warns under its privacy ‘top tips’ website section.
“This might be confusing to people,” said Brian Honan of BH Consulting, a data security specialist firm.
“It is one of the challenges in awareness campaigns on navigating how to use email securely.”
However, Mr Honan said that some companies are now engaging one-time links for payments as an alternative to taking payment over the phone.
The move comes as the telecoms firm prepares to start charging €5.99 for its webmail from July 1st. The company had planned to introduce the charge earlier this year but suspended its introduction during the pandemic lockdown.
The charge is estimated to affect tens of thousands of Eircom.net email address users. Eircom.net email addresses are common among community associations, schools and voluntary associations.
The company’s webmail service has been free for almost 20 years.
The Eir spokesperson said that some webmail users will be able to set up their payment details when they sign in to their webmail from next week.
“When customers log in to their eircom.net email with their existing username and password, they will be automatically redirected to a secure payment page where they will be asked to enter credit or debit card details if they choose to continue to use the service,” she said.
From July first, Eircom.net account holders who don’t pay won’t be able to open individual email messages. If they don’t pay within two months, their email account will be deleted.
Eir is understood to be implementing the move as the email service is a loss making one that requires customer service resources.
The company’s website says that the charge is being brought in “to provide a better service”.
Eircom.net email users who do not wish to start paying the new €6 monthly subscription can export their emails and contact addresses to free services such as Gmail. Instructions for doing so can be found at support.google.com and involve setting up a Gmail account or using an existing Gmail account.
Eir executives say that they do not make money from email services, unlike Google, which sometimes uses the data from Gmail to supplement its advertising business.
However, it may leave thousands of people feeling trapped into paying a new monthly subscription to avoid losing access to longstanding business, community and personal contacts.
In the UK, telecoms companies have been introducing similar charges on once-free services. BT customers reacted with dismay when the former incumbent recently raised prices to £7.50 (€8.80) per month for customers to use its email, while TalkTalk charges £5 (€5.88) per month.