Comreg seeks to impose record fine of €10m on Eir

Fines relates to telco’s alleged failure to comply with obligations to allow others access to network

Last month a judge found Eir had legitimate grounds in bringing its case against the State and granted a stay on the Comreg process provided Eir pursues its case swiftly.

Last month a judge found Eir had legitimate grounds in bringing its case against the State and granted a stay on the Comreg process provided Eir pursues its case swiftly.

 

Telecoms regulator Comreg is seeking to impose a record fine of nearly €10 million on Eir over its alleged failure to comply with obligations to allow other providers access to its network.

The figure emerged this week as Comreg gave notice of its intention to join legal proceedings between Eir and Government.

In a bid to block the regulator from imposing the fine, Eir is countersuing the Government, claiming the EU telecoms regulations have been wrongly applied here and that the regulator has overstepped its remit in trying to impose civil sanctions on the company.

Comreg had been seeking a declaration of non-compliance from the High Court against Eir for regulatory breaches dating back to 2011.

Last month Judge Robert Haughton found Eir had legitimate grounds in bringing its case against the State and granted a stay on the Comreg process provided Eir pursues its case swiftly.

In a statement this week Comreg said it had successfully applied to join the “access regulations proceedings” between Eir and the Government and was keen to have the case listed in the fast-track commercial division of the High Court.

It also revealed that the fines for five years between 2011 and 2015 added up to €9.6 million, which would be a record sanction against the State’s largest telco.

Legal wrangle

The legal wrangle between Eir, Comreg and the Government could have implications for regulator and its powers to impose sanctions and fines on firms in Ireland’s increasingly complex telecoms sector.

The case also places Eir in the legal standoff with Minister for Communications Denis Naughten, who recently engaged the firm to rollout its fibre broadband product to 300,000 rural homes previously earmarked for the National Broadband Plan (NBP).

Eir declined to comment but the company previously said the issues of non-compliance had been resolved since 2015 and that it did not believe Comreg had the right to levy civil penalties “of the kind it is proposing under existing law”.

“Regrettably, Eir has no choice but to challenge the legal basis of this case and has filed its own proceedings against the relevant Minister the Minister for Communication, Climate Change and Environment,” it said.

Comreg is currently conducting a review of Eir’s regulatory governance model, which could in theory pave the way for greater separation between Eir and its wholesale arm, OpenEir.

Eir operates here as a telecoms retailer and a wholesaler, selling space on its network to its own retail arm and rivals. In the UK, the regulator is in the process of structurally separating the incumbent telco BT from operating in a similar fashion.