Meteor fined €25k for taking discounts from users
Telecom giant Meteor Mobile has been convicted and fined €25,000 for removing discounts from customers' phone contracts without telling them.
In the first prosecution of its kind, the company pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court to breaching statutory regulations.
The court heard the company, which is owned by Eir, had discontinued a 50pc discount package.
However, shop operators and Meteor agents continued to sell the bundle to 123 customers, who later had it taken from them without any notification or any offer to withdraw from their contracts without penalty, which is required under the regulations.
The case came after customers' bills doubled and some of them complained to telecoms industry watchdog Comreg. Judge John O'Neill described the company's explanation that they had technical problems as "gobbledygook".
There were 123 counts of breaching the Universal Services and Users Rights regulations. Prosecution counsel Christian Keeling told the court it was agreed that a guilty plea would be entered by Meteor to 10 counts and Comreg would withdraw the remaining charges.
Comreg compliance officer Miriam Kilraine told Judge O'Neill the 123 customers had been given a phone bundle with a 50pc discount for 24 months. However, it was later removed from their packages. Customers who complained were told the discount had been given to them in error. "This resulted in their bills being effectively doubled," she said.
The court heard that 29 customers complained directly to the company but refunds to all those affected came following intervention by Comreg.
On top of the refunds, 111 customers who remained with Meteor have been given the discount back for the duration of their contracts. The average refund was €240, the court heard.
Ms Kilraine cited the example of one customer who was told by Meteor there was "nothing they could do" after they noticed their bill had increased.
Another affected customer complained and held off paying his bill but Meteor cut him off, the court heard.
Meteor director Maeve O'Malley said the company had ceased offering the 50pc discount, however their shops and agents were still able to give it because it was not removed from their computer system.