Watchdog slaps top telecoms on the wrist

Four of the country’s largest telecoms companies have been slapped on the wrist by the consumer watchdog for failing to inform customers of their right to cancel their contracts as well as misleading consumers, in certain instances.

Watchdog slaps top telecoms on the wrist

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission has issued compliance notices against Eircom (including eMobile), Meteor, Three, and UPC for failing to comply with the EU’s Consumer Rights Directive (CRD).

Research into the sector uncovered a number of instances in which customers encountered difficulties with contracts, despite firms having plenty of time to implement changes under the directive, according to commission chair Isolde Goggin.

“The CRD is now in effect in Ireland for over a year so all businesses have had ample time to update the information which they give to customers… As our actions prove, we will take all necessary steps to ensure consumers are given the information and afforded the protections they are entitled to under consumer law,” Ms Goggin said.

“It is clear from an analysis of the contracts we receive that a significant number of consumers have problems with their telecoms providers. This is why we have reviewed the sector and have taken the resulting action.”

A spokesperson for the commission said that as the companies have agreed to comply, no further sanctions are envisioned at present, and added that enforcement orders were considered an appropriate response.

The firms failed to inform customers of their right to cancel a contract as well as to make the necessary cancellation form available prior to signing up to a distance contract, that is, one entered into over the phone or online.

The commission also found that incorrect information was provided about the length of cancellation periods and, in certain distance contracts, incorrect information was given in relation to the waiving of cancellation rights. All four firms are now applying the correct terms in which a consumer may cancel a distance contract.

Additionally, Eircom and Meteor failed to tell consumers of their right to cancel their contract under the CRD.

To remedy this, the companies are now required to write to the affected consumers to inform them of their cancellation rights. Consumers have 14 days from the date on which they receive this information to cancel their contract, if they wish.

Meanwhile, new figures released in response to a parliamentary question tabled by Fianna Fáil finance spokesperson Michael McGrath show the State has received close to €30m in income from licences granted to mobile phone operators for masts located on state property over the past six years. Some €4.4m of the €28.6m total was received last year, down from €5.4m in 2013.

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