Alarm bells ring again for Eircom

PHONE company Eircom was at the centre of a fresh storm over the weekend as it dismissed criticism it was generating millions of euro each year in revenue by charging customers for equipment and services they did not use.

Eircom commercial director David McRedmond said he “absolutely rejected” claims made in a Sunday newspaper the company hit customers with hidden charges.

Mr McRedmond said Eircom was one of the most transparent companies in the country and was subject to strict regulation in relation to its billing practices by telecoms regulator ComReg and also had responsibilities as a publicly quoted company to keep its house in order.

It had been reported Eircom continued to charge residential and business customers for renting phone equipment, such as handsets and switching devices, even when the equipment was no longer in use. Eircom said customers were free to stop using rented equipment at any time and return it to the company to avoid incurring charges.

It was a matter for customers to decide if a particular piece of equipment no longer suited their needs, said Mr McRedmond.

The company also sent ‘regular reminders’ to customers informing them of their options when it came to renting equipment, said Mr McRedmond.

Customers could cancel or upgrade phone handsets and were free to buy handsets from high street retailers to avoid ongoing rental charges. Mr McRedmond also dismissed suggestions Eircom’s bills were too complicated and that customers may have had difficulty understanding the nature of the services they were paying for.

He said Eircom bills were transparent and ComReg had not raised any issue with the company about the layout of bills.

The news is the latest in a series of controversies surrounding the former state-owned phone company. It recently came under sustained fire from consumer groups and rival telecoms operators that claimed it had held off on investing in its network in order to strip cash out of the company by way of dividends to its owners.

Eircom also owned up last month to overcharging more than 30,000 customers by a total of €400,000 during the past 10 years, by billing them twice for call management services such as call waiting, mailbox facilities and diverting calls to another number.

The company apologised and refunded affected customers when the mistake was discovered.

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