Eircom lose 50,000 customers since June

SINCE the end of June, 50,000 customers have left Eircom as a result of competition in the fixed line telephone market.

Communications Regulation Commission (ComReg) chairman John Doherty gave this information when he appeared yesterday before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications.

Line rental costs have gone up by 60% since the start of deregulation in 1997, Esat BT head of pricing Michael Connolly told the committee.

Since 1997, he pointed out, there had been a 50% fall in call charges, as consumers now have a wide choice of providers and packages.

Mr Connolly said consumers have limited choice for fixed-line access as Eircom controls the wholesale and retail prices.

According to Comreg, Eircom retains 80% of the overall fixed-line market. Esat claims 10%.

Defending Eircom’s pricing regime, commercial director David McRedmond insisted to committee chairman Noel O’Flynn his company offered “good value” overall in relation to what customers pay.

Eircom employed 7,500 people and did not cherry pick customers but provided service to every town and village, he said.

Questioned about line rental charges, Mr McRedmond said providing an access network was very expensive. Eircom invested 12.2% of sales, which was way above the average of the EU 15 states.

Labour’s Tommy Broughan claimed that, due to money being taken out of Eircom by venture capitalists, a new housing estate in Athy, Co Kildare, could not get a phone service.

Mr McRedmond said Eircom could not get in to the estate because they were not considered an “essential service.” It was not a question of investment. It would be commercial suicide to pass up new customers, he said.

Eircom has cut off 12,000 lines used to con customers into paying premium rates when ordering goods and services on the internet.

Mr McRedmond said Eircom alerted customers before billing if it noted an unusual usage pattern.

“Our policy is to refund innocent customers in full even though there is a considerable cost to us because we have to pay every telecoms company on the way,” he said.

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