Mobile firm Three fined €575,000 for blocking switchers
Ireland's second-largest mobile company has been fined €575,000 by the telecoms watchdog ComReg for messing up contract changes to 1.3 million customers earlier this year.
The errors occurred while Three was raising the price of its services and changing its data allowances.
"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.
An 1800 telephone number that Three set up to deal with it wasn't adequately manned.
ComReg also found that Three unfairly stopped people from trying to switch operators when it 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".
"Steps have now been put in place to avoid similar issues in the future," she said.
However, some Three customers may still be entitled to apply for a penalty-free early end to their contract or a refund from the operator if they paid to exit their contract but were not properly contacted by the company.
The company says it will not accept email communication from customers seeking answers to the questions - instead asking people to phone a call centre, send letters, physically attend a store or use the operator's website chat room facilities.
ComReg has warned Three that it must provide an external auditor's report to ensure that it has complied with rules on refunding customers who were wrongly required to pay early termination fees.