Sunday 24 February 2019

Landline operator Yourtel agrees to stop billing customers for service they never receive

Stock Image: Getty Images/EyeEm
Stock Image: Getty Images/EyeEm

Tim Healy

A landline operator has agreed to cease billing customers for a phone service they never receive, the Commercial Court heard.

Last month, the communications regulator, ComReg, sought orders restraining Germany-based Yourtel from this practice.

Comreg claimed the firm had refused to co-operate and thwarted efforts to investigate its activities.  Yourtel had also been convicted of repeated breaches of telecommunications legislation in relation to these activities.

On Monday, Brian Murray SC, for Comreg, told the court Yourtel had consented to final orders requiring it to cease various contraventions of the 2002 Communications Regulations Act.

Mr Justice Robert Haughton granted the reliefs sought by Comreg and gave it liberty to apply to the court again for the purpose of enforcement of the orders if necessary.  He also granted Comreg its costs of bringing the case.

In December 2017, Yourtel, 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.  

Read more: Yourtel fined €66,000 for elderly rip-off

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.

Last month, Mr Justice Haughton admitted ComReg's action against Yourtel to the fast track Commercial Court. 

In its application, Comreg said 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, it was claimed. 

Only 48 of 146 customers billed by Yourtel between December 2017 and March 2018 were actually provided with a service.

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