Phone firms and banking are chief concerns

Phone companies and banks top the list of businesses causing concern, confusion, and complaints among customers, according to the National Consumer Agency helpline.

Of the top 10 companies that prompted contacts by members of the public last year, six were mobile or fixed line phone providers, Vodafone, Three, Eircom, Meteor, O2, and UPC.

Three were banks — Bank of Ireland, AIB, and Ulster Bank.

Greyhound waste disposal and recycling, and Harvey Norman furniture and electrical stores came joint tenth.

However, collectively, the top 10 accounted for just a sixth of all consumer contacts throughout the year, showing customer relations problems are widespread.

National Consumer Agency chief executive Karen O’Leary said the agency responded to an average of 160 helpline contacts a day last year, on top of the 1.15m website visits it also received.

“The level of contacts we receive highlights that across some sectors, companies are failing to deliver effective customer service when an issue arises,” she said.

The agency’s annual report also lists the top 10 products and services that prompted contacts to the helpline.

Once again, phone-related issues feature prominently, with mobile phone handsets, mobile phone services, and internet services taking up three of the 10 places.

However, second-hand cars were top issue, while clothing, mortgages, PCs, laptops, and notebooks, waste service charges, and footwear also featured.

There were also an average of three contacts a day about sofas.

Agency inspectors seized and destroyed more than 26,000 unsafe products destined for the Irish market during the year, predominantly children’s soft toys, dolls, and novelty items, but also chargers for mobile phones and other electrical goods, laser pointers, sunglasses, plugs, adapters, and cigarette lighters.

The State consumer watchdog also investigated almost 500 product safety cases, managed 122 unsafe product and product withdrawal notifications and took 115 enforcement actions against businesses in breach of various aspects of consumer law.

Enforcement actions can take the form of prosecutions, fines, compliance and prohibition orders or voluntary undertakings. Two prosecutions were secured against traders selling ‘clocked’ cars.

This is likely to be the last annual report by the agency in its current form, as it is due to be merged with the Competition Authority to become a Consumer and Competition Protection Commission.

Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton said: “The agency will be amalgamating with the Competition Authority to create a new, more powerful consumer watchdog with a range of consumer and criminal powers at its disposal.”


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