Three avoids conviction for over-charging customers

Phone company Three has been spared a criminal conviction for over-charging customers.

Three Ireland had pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court to three charges under Section 45 of the Communications Act.

Judge John O’Neill noted yesterday that the company had complied with an order he had made in July to donate €15,000 to charities and good causes.

After being furnished with a receipt, he finalised the case and applied the Probation Act meaning the phone company has been spared a criminal record. They had been prosecuted following an investigation by industry watchdog Comreg.

The court heard that Three Ireland which took over O2 accounts last year kept billing and getting paid by two customers who had cancelled accounts.

Another customer got a phone upgrade and was offered a package by a shop with a Three franchise. She accepted a deal where she would get 300 minutes of free calls to the UK if she paid an extra €2.99 on top of her €55 a month package.

However, she ended up getting billed for €300. She repeatedly went back to the shop and got no explanation and the sales assistant hid from her, the court was told.

The court heard the phone company’s customer service team had worked out of Mumbai in India but they have set up a new call centre in Limerick to deal with complaints. It also agreed to contribute towards prosecution costs.

Three had been told it would be spared a court conviction if it gave €5,000 each to Pieta House, The Merchant’s Quay Project and Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin.

However, in July and during the same set of prosecutions, Vodafone was convicted and fined €10,000 while Eircom received a conviction and fines totalling €21,000 after they each pleaded guilty to charges for over-charging customers.

In one case, Eircom had used debt collectors to pursue an elderly man living in a nursing home after he had already cancelled his account, the court was told.

The court had heard one of the complaints against Vodafone was that it had over-charged another man who had suffered a serious injury in a fall and had cancelled his account, the court heard.

Lawyers for all the companies said the cases related to human and system error and the court noted they have all set up new remediation plans to ensure these problems won’t happen again.


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