ComReg under fire over delay in reviewing Eir complaints

Rival telecoms firms claim Eir is abusing its dominant position in the market

The telecoms watchdog has been strongly criticised for taking too long to adjudicate on complaints that Eir is abusing its dominant position in the market.

Rival firms are angry that ComReg has failed to act despite an admission by Eir that it discriminated against other telcos using its network.

In a report last summer, the former semi-state detailed a list of 20 areas where it was failing to provide equal access to non-Eir companies.

Eir plans to publish a further compliance update at the end of March. This is expected to detail the company’s progress in complying with its regulatory obligations.


However, ComReg says it will take until the end of 2016 to carry out a review of Eir’s regulatory governance model.

At issue is whether the company’s wholesale arm should be structurally separated from its retail business.

Outsourced review

ComReg has out-sourced this review to consultants on the grounds that it does not have enough resources to conduct its own investigation.

Access to Eir’s broadband and fixed-line network remains a contentious issue amid allegations that Eir favours its own retail arm over rival telcos.

"Taking a year to adjudicate is unacceptable. The assessment on the impact of the market will come after the damage, if any, has been done," said Ronan Lupton of the Alternative Operators in the Communications Market group, which represents non-Eir operators.

“The regulator complains about resources,” he added, “but this is a different situation as Eir itself has detailed the issues involved.”

He noted that ComReg was given Eir’s report last May.

A spokesman for the regulator said: “ComReg has said recently that it will carry out a review of Eir’s regulatory governance model.

“While the matters involved are detailed and complex, ComReg is committed to carrying out its review as expeditiously as possible.”

Separately, ComReg is expected to rule on a series of complaints by Eir's main rivals – Sky, BT, Vodafone and Magnet – about Eir's fault repair times, which they claim are below European industry norms.

Joint complaint

The chief executives of these companies lodged a joint complaint with the regulator late last year, on foot of a report by Towerhouse consultants.

Eir has a number of service level agreements (SLAs) with companies that use its telecoms network, which oblige it to fix 77 per cent of faults on customers’ lines within two days and 92 per cent within five days.

However, an Eir spokesman admitted the company was currently not hitting its SLA targets .

“We are transparent. We publish performance on a quarterly basis,” he said, noting that financial penalties were paid to operators when targets were not met.

“One of the reasons for missing the targets is due to the sustained storms over the past number of months,” he added.

“We are increasing our resourcing by training more apprentices to specifically work on fault repair.”

The mediation process between the four operators (Sky, BT, Vodafone and Magnet) and Eir is ongoing. ComReg’s binding and final decision on new levels for SLAs will be made at the end of March.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times