ComReg pursues fresh prosecution against Yourtel

Regulator pursues controversial German telco for failing to provide data on contracts

ComReg is understood to have been unhappy with the €66,000 fine imposed on Yourtel by the Dublin District Court, given the severity of the company’s actions.

ComReg is understood to have been unhappy with the €66,000 fine imposed on Yourtel by the Dublin District Court, given the severity of the company’s actions.

 

Controversial German telco Yourtel, which was fined this week for selling bogus contracts for cheaper landline calls to hundreds of customers in Ireland, is facing further criminal prosecutions from telecoms watchdog ComReg, The Irish Times has learned.

It is understood the regulator is pursuing further cases against the firm on foot of separate complaints about their contractual arrangements with customers and specifically whether Yourtel failed to offer consumers a mandatory 14-day cooling-off period following verbal agreements to switch provider.

ComReg made several information requests under the Communications Act in light of these complaints, which have not been complied with by the company and which will now be subject to a separate criminal prosecution in the Dublin District Court, which is due to hear the case in February.

ComReg would not comment while the matter was before the courts, while Yourtel could not be contacted.

Following a separate investigation by ComReg, Yourtel was this week fined €66,000 in the Dublin District Court for repeatedly billing predominantly older customers for landline services it had failed to supply.

The court heard the company had repeatedly threatened with legal action customers who did not pay. It also heard that most of the customers involved in 88 charges brought against the company were in their late 70s.

The most recent accounts filed on behalf of Yourtel show the company made a profit of €88,000 in Ireland for the 12 months to the end of June 2016.

Berlin-based group

Yourtel is part of a Berlin-based group called Primaholding GmbH, which also has operations in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

It was established by three Croatian executives based in BerlinMarijan Vukusic, Mario Kovac and Marijana Vukusic (also known as Marijana Fenster). Mr Vukusic and Mr Kovac are listed as directors of Yourtel here.

The company’s modus operandi is the same in other countries. It offers customers of established providers low-cost calls on existing lines.

Customers typically retain their line rental contract – with Eir in the case of Ireland – but are billed separately by the company for landline calls.

While the company has now been legally sanctioned three times in Ireland – twice by ComReg and once by the Data Protection Commissioner – for a variety of regulatory breaches, it has also run foul of regulators in other countries.

In Germany in 2011, its subsidiary, Primacall, was fined €50,000 for “repeated illegal telemarketing calls”. In Austria, another subsidiary, also called Primacall, was the subject of a legal case in Vienna taken by the Austrian Chamber of Labour in which a complaint that the company had engaged in unauthorised and aggressive business practices and unsolicited marketing calls was upheld.

In Switzerland in 2013, its Swiss subsidiary was subject to legal sanction also for unsolicited marketing.

ComReg is understood to have been unhappy with the €66,000 fine imposed on the company by the Dublin District Court, given the severity of the company’s actions.

In 2014-2015, Yourtel had more than 5,000 Irish customers, mostly ex-Eir customers, but on foot of widespread complaints about the company’s heavy-handed tactics this has now fallen back to 1,300.