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Telecoms regulator heavily criticised for €12m An Post fine

THE telecoms regulator has come under fire from TDs for imposing a fine of almost €12m on An Post for failing to deliver letters on time.

The semi-state mail firm has warned that the case may result in job losses among its 9,000 workforce and push up the price of postage for consumers.

Members of the Oireachtas Communications committee have criticised the telecoms regulator Comreg for imposing the fine on An Post.

Labour party chairman Colm Keaveney TD blamed the regulator for damaging an important public company that employs thousands of people across the state.

“Rural communities will suffer the most from the closure of rural post offices that the regulator's actions will cause. This can hardly have been the intention of the Oireachtas in creating the office of ComReg,” he said.

Fine Gael TD Tom Hayes, who is the chair of the committee, said members were critical of the lack of clarity from Comreg on the reason for the size of the €12m fine.

“Our committee will consider inviting Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte to clarify the issues raised today, including aspects of ComReg’s mandate,” he said.

Mr Rabbitte does not have any direct power in the matter because ComReg is an independent regulator.

In 2004, ComReg told An Post it had to achieve a next-day delivery standard of 94pc for single-piece priority mail delivered within the State.

However, seven years later, An Post was nowhere near that target. By the third quarter of last year, it had only achieved 84pc next-day delivery.

ComReg announced that it was taking action last February with the aim of imposing a huge fine for missing these next-day delivery targets in 2010 and 2011.

ComReg has said it cannot comment on the €12m fine against An Post because legal proceedings are still ongoing.