Pensioners face increase in phone bills
Pensioners will see their phone bills rise by up to €18.59 per month, when State and other subsidies for their phone services are reduced in February.
The reduction in State subsides for 390,000 telephone subscribers from the current maximum of €22.58 to €9.50 – a cut of €13.08 a month – was set out in the budget.
However, more than 270,000 subscribers who are contracted to Eircom will also see the company remove subsidies of €3.20 towards line rental, €1.52 towards calls and 79 cent towards the cost of handset rental.
The vast majority of the 390,000 subscribers affected are pensioners who avail of the non means-tested Household Benefit Scheme administered by the Department of Social Protection.
The department said a “very small” amount of that number were non-pensioners in receipt of “disability-type” allowances.
Eircom, which applies the subsidies as a credit to customers’ bills, said it was “nearly impossible” to say how much extra a typical customer on a typical bill pay landline would have to pay as a result of the cut in subsidies.
This is because of individual patterns of call usage, and different packages of voice or broadband, or combined voice and broadband, that are available.
However the company was able to provide some detail of price increases for its fixed packages and said that as of February 1st, the maximum credit applied on bills would reduce from €28.09 per month to €9.50 a month, both prices inclusive of VAT.
While it said the changes were “regrettable”, a spokesman said the company was working with telecoms regulator ComReg to design a new subsidy that would be available to its “most vulnerable” users.
This would mean that in future any such subsidies for Eircom customers would be effectively means-tested.
The company said it hoped to announce details of specific packages for vulnerable customers “in the near-future”.
Attempts to contact a spokesperson for Vodafone, which also has a sizeable share of the Republic’s landline business, were not successful yesterday.
It is understood the company does apply the department subsidies as a credit to the accounts of eligible customers. However some other companies in the telephone market require subscribers to claim back the allowance from the department themselves.
The benefit scheme covers travel on public transport, a free television licence, a fuel allowance and a telephone allowance for pensioners and some holders of disability-type allowances.
Talk not so cheap
Eircom price changesThe minimum charge for Eircom’s basic Talk Off-Peak package is currently €1.91 per month for pensioners. From February 1st, they will be asked to pay €20.50.
Eircom’s Talk anytime package is currently €11.91 per month for pensioners. From February 1st, pensioners will be asked to pay €30.50.
Talk Off-Peak and basic (8mb) broadband is currently available to pensioners at €11.91 for the first six months, and this will rise to €30.50. After six months it will rise to €35.50.