The P&T van revolutionised how people communicated in this country. The brand of the old Posts and Telegraphs semi-state company became a familiar sight on the high roads and byroads as families installed telephones in their houses.
Through the branching off into Telecom Éireann, the privatisation of Eircom and on to its modern day format of Eir, many of those customers stuck with the phone and the operator in their homes.
Being the tried and trusted original incumbent in the market continues to deliver for Eir to this day. Eir remains Ireland’s largest telecoms operator and owns the majority of the country’s fixed telecoms infrastructure.
Besides, lots of us don’t like changing from what we’re used to. Trust is a vital component in such relationships. Now comes the troubling development that the telecoms regulator wants to hit Eir with an €11.5m fine for overcharging 71,000 domestic customers.
The watchdog, ComReg, says that Eir continues to overcharge customers and claims that this practice "is widespread and ongoing and affects a very substantial number of customers monthly". Eir is challenging the application saying it denies these allegations and will defend this case vigorously”. The detail on what is being alleged is scant and will come out in the wash in time.
Again, it’s a worrying sign for consumers already being walloped by rising costs of everyday items and bills alike.
An area where the consumer could have legitimately expected a Covid-19 dividend was in motor insurance costs. After all, cars were off the road during lockdown, with notable fall offs in traffic. Less cars on the road lead to fewer accidents, which should have driven down insurance premiums. Staying at home prevented two million tonnes of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere last year as motorists inadvertently did their bit for climate action.
The latest Central Bank report into the motor market says premiums did indeed fall, but not to the extent that it made any sort of dent in the profits of motor insurers. Motor insurance companies saw their profits jump to a 10-year high last year when most people were forced to stay off the roads due to lockdowns.
The report suggests insurance companies are failing to pass on all of the benefits from the lower cost of settling claims to motorists. The cost of claims was down 20pc last year, while there were fewer claims. The Central Bank is predicting the industry is “nearing the peak of profitability”. Let’s just see. For now, insurance companies are being accused of exploiting the pandemic after combined profits shot up.
No matter what happens, the house always wins.
But there is a bit of good news for the consumer. A 90 minute fare covering bus, rail and Luas services across Dublin is being launched. The fare will be €2.30 for adults and students using their Leap Card up until the end of next March, with child fares costing 80c
By the way, the Government is asking you to limit your social interactions and encouraging you to work from home, so there won’t be much chance to avail of the offer. It’s Irish-style joined up thinking.