Eir says sorry … again

State’s largest telecoms group was not just failing consumers on service, it was actively frustrating them

Saying sorry seems to come naturally to the State’s largest telecoms provider Eir. But if evidence provided before a Dublin court on Monday is indicative, all it really means is that Eir is sorry it got caught.

The telco has a long and consistent history of ranking among the worst companies in the State when it comes to customer service. Every time it is pinned down, it apologises for past failures and explains how it could not happen in future because of steps it has taken to upgrade customer service operations, invest in new technology, staff, or training, or whatever.

Now we know the nature of those “upgrades”. In a 2021 update to its code of practice for handling complaints — after yet more complaints, this time about endless call waiting times for consumers during the pandemic — Dublin district court heard the company actively introduced rules to restrict the ability of customers to complain ... or at least to have those complaints recorded and acted upon.

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A training manual provided to Eir employees by parent company, Eircom, even warned staff that they would face disciplinary proceedings if they obeyed Irish laws covering customer complaints, according to what the court was told. When the regulator, ComReg, went looking for this training manual, it found a section, boxed off in red and underlined in bold, where staff were told that “under no circumstances are the complaints number or complaints webpage address to be provided to any customer”.


It remains unclear who put together the training manual and who in the organisation sanctioned the final version. It’s not even particularly clear why the regulator has not pressed harder for disclosure of such information which, if nothing else, would give some greater understanding of the issue and the company’s culture.

Meanwhile, according to figures from the company last summer, its majority owners — French billionaire Xavier Niel and two New York hedge funds — have taken €1.85 billion in dividends from the business over five years.

Was it a case that the owners figured the cost of compliance with the rules was not worth it when balanced against the penalty for failing to do so? When the penalty for getting caught and convicted — a paltry €750 fine for each of 10 charges on which it admitted guilt — you can see what it might be.

Eir insists practices have changed and that it is now in full compliance with the regulations. Until the next time, presumably.