Business Technology

Friday 19 July 2019

Irish telecoms regulator seeking court order to stop Yourtel billing customers for phone service they never receive

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Tim Healy

A German landline operator is continuing to bill customers for a phone service they never receive despite having been repeatedly convicted of breaches of telecommunications regulations, it has been claimed in Commercial Court proceedings.

Now the communications regulator, ComReg, is seeking a High Court order restraining it from continuing to do it.  Comreg says Yourtel has refused to co-operate and thwarted efforts to investigate its activities.

In December 2017, Yourtel, based in Germany and with an registered Irish address at Kill Avenue, Dun Laoghaire, was fined €66,000 on 89 counts of charging mainly elderly people for services they never received.   In June 2017, it was first convicted and fined €2,500 for this activity.  In February last year, it was fined another €3,000 for two more offences.

Yourtel, through unsolicited calls, offered discounted services to phone subscribers whose calls were supposed to be charged by the company while Eircom continued to bill for the line rental.   In these cases, however Yourtel was providing no service whatsoever but sent out bills and even used a debt collection agency to go after unpaid bills.

On Monday, Mr Justice Robert Haughton admitted ComReg's action against Yourtel to the Commercial Court.  He refused an application on behalf of Yourtel for an adjournment to allow its solicitor take instructions and said directions on how it would proceed would be given in three weeks.

Miriam Kilraine, ComReg compliance operations manager, said in an affidavit, that between 2013 and 2018, the regulator received complaints from more than 2,400 Yourtel customers.  Despite the repeated convictions and fines, ComReg was contacted some 50 times between February and September last by Yourtel customers.

Following further investigations by ComReg, using information provided by  Eircom, it was established 301 people who  Yourtel maintained were still active customers, did not actually have an active service with Yourtel.  Only 48 of 146 customers billed by Yourtel between December 2017 and March 2018 were actually provided with a service.

Ms Kilraine said ComReg believes Yourtel is continuing to charge customers for services not being provided.

It also has no confidence in the accuracy of the information  Yourtel provides it with.  "That investigation is being thwarted - yet again-by Yourtel which has failed to co-operate fully and in  a timely manner with the latest information request", she said.

Based on past experience, Comreg is extremely concerned it is concealing evidence of further breaches.

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