ComReg warns Eircom over online billing

Telecoms firm facing a battle with the communications regulator over online billing

Telecoms firm Eircom is facing a battle with the communications regulator over the decision to move some mobile customers to online billing

Telecoms firm Eircom is facing a battle with the communications regulator over the decision to move some mobile customers to online billing

 


Telecoms firm Eircom is facing a battle with the communications regulator over the decision to move some mobile customers to online billing.

ComReg said the group’s mobile division had breached its obligations to notify customers of a change to contracts when it introduced the new billing method.

The company has been given three weeks to answer ComReg’s breach notice, which was sent to the company on Friday and published today, or face enforcement action.

Eircom began changing about 207,000 Meteor and eMobile customers, a portion of its mobile customer base, to electronic billing from August 12th, a move that had been criticised by consumer groups when the plan first emerged.

Those affected are subscribers who currently receive bills monthly and have also signed up to the online portal of either Meteor or eMobile, which allows customers to view and pay bills online, and to track usage.

The move does not affect the rest of Eircom’s mobile subscriber base, its prepay customers or many Eircom customers.

However, ComReg said the implementation of the online billing represented a change to the customers’ contracts, and the company had not complied with its statutory obligations to notify customers of such modifications.


Three notifications
It is understood that affected customers were notified on three separate occasions of the plan – twice through text messages sent to their phone and once via a message on their paper bill.

However, under ComReg’s rules, Meteor should have given customers the chance to reject the changes to the contract, or opt out of it.

“Specifically, in accordance with Regulation 14(4) of the Universal Service Regulations, Meteor is required to notify subscribers of proposed modifications to contractual conditions and to advise subscribers of their right to withdraw without penalty from the contract if they do not accept the proposed change,” ComReg said in the notice published yesterday.

The regulations also allow subscribers a month from the date of notification to withdraw from the contract if they do not wish to accept the changes to the agreement.

About 26,000 customers are believed to have opted to retain their paper bill, about 13 per cent of those affected.

Eircom said the company viewed the change as a “clarification of terms and conditions”.

“We are disappointed that this initiative, which is aligned with Ireland’s online and ecommerce agenda and our own cost reduction agenda, is the subject of breach notice,” a spokesman said. “We will be considering our position.”