Back with our old friends at eir – and nothing seems to have changed
Pricewatch: Overcharging and disconnecting as the price of bacon goes through the roof
Eir customers are generally placed on a queue of about 30 minutes and often after this time the call is disconnected. Photograph: Alan Betson
Over recent months you would have been forgiven for thinking that all the problems we are accustomed to dealing with on this page have simply gone away. That has – sadly – not been the case. While many of the queries we have been getting have been directly related to the current crisis, there have been others which have not. We will devote the page to just a handful of them this week.
First up are our old friends at eir.
“Recently I discovered that my 86-year-old mother has been overcharged by eir for a year,” begins a mail from a reader called Edel.
Edel’s mother signed up for a package which cost €66.98 a month and included unlimited usage of eir fibre and Eir Talk Mobile World, something which allows for unlimited calls to Irish landlines and mobiles and to top international landlines and mobiles. Her son lives in Florida and she likes to call him.
“However, for some reason for the past year they have charged an extra €24.35 for home broadband charges,” Edel writes. “She spent weeks trying to get through to eir, holding for over an hour,” the mail continues.
“I do appreciate the Covid situation and have just recently taken this over for my mother as you can imagine the stress this is causing an 86-year-old lady, on a State pension. I applied online to be nominated as the person to speak for her. I never received confirmation of this.”
Like her mother, Edel spent days holding “for up to an hour sometimes. I managed to get to speak to someone in eir as recently as 15th June and again on 22nd June. She checked into my query and did confirm that my mother was overcharged for the past six months but they said they could only refund the last month.”
Edel said this was unacceptable and the family wanted all overcharged monies refunded. “She said that she would set up a refund case and that it would be between 14 and 30 days before we hear back. However, since then I have discovered that they have overcharged her since June 2019.”
In the meantime, Edel paid her mother’s overdue bill online but decided that she would only pay her package of €66.98.
“A few days later we get a text to say that ‘Due to an overdue balance on your eir account, your service will be suspended, unless you take immediate action . . .’
“Needless to say, this caused me concern as my mother’s phone line is her contact to her family and outside world. I set about calling the number on the text. About 50 minutes later I finally got through to a rather rude person, and explained my predicament. And, to my horror, I was cut off. I don’t know why but it could be just a technical issue.”
So off Edel went again to try to get through and eventually after about another 50 minutes she made contact again. “The customer credit control team member explained that she could not help and that she was not aware of the refund case and that the balance would need to be paid.”
Edel says she is afraid this is going to go on and on. “My experience to date with eir is not great, as I just recently changed over to eir for my broadband and phone, and on my first bill I was also overcharged by €40 plus. I am currently trying to sort that one also. And again, they are saying that they have submitted a refund case. As I stated, my mother is 86 and I estimate that she is due about €300 refund, and what I would also like them to do as a goodwill gesture is to allow her to access the recent price they have for new customers. She is with eir for years and years but seemingly loyalty doesn’t seem to matter anymore. She currently needs some medical treatment and that €300 would certainly take some financial pressure off her.”
That is not the only eir-related correspondence we have had in recent days.
“I am just contacting you to highlight the issue which I have had with eir and vent my frustration,” starts the mail from Róisín ominously.
“My parents have had a landline with Eircom/eir, I would imagine for about 40 years. As my parents are both in their 80s I went down as a contact on the account so I could deal with eir should they have any issues,” she says.
“In March 2019 I put them on a package which meant their bills were averaging €45 per month approximately. Since February of this year my dad has been very unwell and has been in and out of hospital which means my mam has to make a lot more calls. She was very concerned as they had risen to approximately €100 per month.”
Róisín tried on many occasions to make contact with eir to discuss changing the package but she kept being placed on a queue of about 30 minutes and generally after this time the call would be disconnected.
“My mother has an old mobile phone and by chance happened to notice that she had got a message on the 12th May to say that due to high usage she needed to contact 01-7662506 or her phone would be disconnected. I was worried that this was spam. I just so happened to be in contact with eir Business that day and I mentioned this message to the eir customer service person and he said that eir never text customers and would never cut off a customer without writing to them and yes it was a spam message and to ignore it.”
That was grand, says Róisín, and she ignored it.
You can probably guess what is coming next.
“On Thursday last my mam again happened to notice that she had got another message re high usage and the next thing was that their landline was cut off! My mother was so upset as my dad was back in hospital and she had no way of contacting them,” Róisín says.
She spent two hours solidly trying to contact eir. “Each time I was placed in a queue and then it would hang up. This happened [and still happens on all eir’s numbers] about 20 times. Eventually I got through to a representative and he said that even though Mam and Dad’s bills are paid by direct debit each month, in their opinion they are making too many calls and they decided to disconnect the line.”
Róisín wants to know how eir can get away with treating customers, especially elderly ones, like this. “It is the most ludicrous thing I have ever heard. I ended up having to pay €100 off their bill so they would come under what they call their ‘fair usage policy’.”
Her mother was without her phone for 24 hours. “I have since being trying to get back in contact with them as their caller ID and call answering has disappeared but, as usual, the calls are just not answered. I understand a lot of people are working from home but this is always the case with eir. I have since spoken to a lot of people about this situation and nearly everyone I have spoken to has had a similar issue.”
Broadband and TV package
And there was more about eir. “I am writing to you as a last resort. I am sure you are sick of getting consumer complaints about eir,” started the mail from Brideen.
“The problem started last November when I attempted to cancel the broadband and TV package with eir but we’re keeping the house phone which we have had at this house for over 32 years,” she says.
“I followed exactly the advice on its website and sent a cease notice. I had added the TV and broadband in about 2015. I noticed in February that the direct debit was still being drawn down and phoned eir. After some time I got through and was told that the letter was never received. After a lengthy conversation with this person, he told me I should return the modem to a PO Box in Limerick as I would be charged €50. This I did and sent both modem and TV box and got a receipt from the post office. I enclosed the original letter and asked them to acknowledge receipt by text or email. They failed to do this.”
Then, in the third week of April they cut Brideen’s telephone off. “This in the middle of the pandemic. We are both OAPs. I’m 75 and Aidan is 77. Twice I have filled out the complaint form stating our case and got an automated reply telling me how important we were to them. I tried Webchat and no one answered. I have tried repeatedly to get in touch but the system does not recognise either our account number or telephone number; seemingly it no longer exists. I also got an automated answer telling me the account was “temporarily suspended”.
We got in touch with eir and received the following statement:
“ Our care team has been in contact with all three account holders to rectify the problems and ensure that these customers have the service and account plans that best suit their needs. We have apologised to the customers for the delay in resolving these matters.
“Customers have been experiencing longer wait times than usual when contacting customer care over the course of the pandemic as our care agents normally based in Sligo, Cork and Limerick moved to remote working, and we apologise for any delays experienced by customers.
“We have now reopened our retail stores where it is safe to do so, and we have made changes to how those retail stores operate. Implementing public health guidelines, including social distancing, have meant longer wait times in stores. As such, queries relating to SIM card swaps or device upgrades are also being managed by customer care.
“We are working hard to return to our usual levels of care and thank customers for their patience during this time. We are currently recruiting to expand our care team throughout Ireland. Our digital support and social channels continue to operate as usual, and we have made additional self-service forms available on eir.ie to provide customers with answers to many frequently asked questions.”
Difficult to contact
The complaints have not all been eir-related. “In December 2019 I bought a renewed item from Amazon,” starts a mail from Francis Reed. “The listing makes it clear there is a warranty and they claim they are there when you need them. This is not the experience I am having.”
The item was offered by a few sellers so Francis clicked through to the cheapest.
In May the unit failed. “So I go to the platform, reach out to the supplier only to find the supplier no longer trades via Amazon. No feedback, no way of contacting them. Now Covid-19 comes into play. Most ways of contacting Amazon don’t work. Phone and emails bounce. So it’s Chat. That’s an experience when you have to do it over and over again.”
He says escalating the issue internally and “making a claim” under the warranty simply gets denied without explanation.
“Amazon say I bought the unit from the seller. I paid my money to Amazon and I believe they have an obligation under the listing to honour the warranty. As a sidebar, I found some more details of the seller. Their trading address seems to be a house, according to Google maps. The Refurbished scheme has strict sign-up criteria for sellers. Here’s a case where things have broken down and the consumer is left holding the baby.”
Francis has written to us because he believes his experience highlights the potential problems when dealing with large online retailers. “Purchasing online means you can’t deal with someone face to face, and organisations have shut down their usual routes of escalation, focusing instead on offshore call centres with chat-only facilities and hard and fixed processes. Is this what it’s going to be like going forward?”
Beer and rashers
And finally we have a problem focused on things dear to our hearts – beer and rashers.
“There is a food item which I buy very frequently and which has risen in price by 25 per cent in recent weeks,” says Michael Coyle. “The product is the smaller [unsmoked, vacuum] pack of Galtee back rashers [pack of five] and the Denny equivalent [six rashers].”
He says both were €2 for as long as he can remember but, a few weeks ago, they went up to €2.50, a rise of 25 per cent. “This during a period when every hotel, restaurant and B&B in the country is closed so the overall consumption of bacon products has to be down. Yet this retail product has suddenly gone up in price by 25 per cent. Both Galtee and Denny are brands produced by Kerry Group.”
His “next gripe” is about the box of 20 x 33cl bottles of Heineken. “This is a pricing benchmark product for me. Any time I go into an off-licence, I look to see what they’re charging for that box and that gives me a steer as to what their general pricing is like. Up to a few months ago, you could get this box in some places for as low as €18 and you’d never expect to pay more than €20. But in my local Supervalu, it has crept up from €22 at the beginning of the lockdown, then to €24 and this week it’s €25.”
He says Dunnes in Cornelscourt is doing home delivery for a limited range of groceries and booze and they’re asking €27 (plus delivery charge) for that box of Heineken. “With all of the pubs and hotels closed, I seriously doubt that Heineken has pushed up their wholesale prices.”
We got in touch with SuperValu to see if it could shed any light on the price hikes. we heard nothing about the bacon but when it came to the beer, a spokesman said the supplier has raised the price on this product, “but it is regularly on promotion and will be available again on promotion at a lower cost of €20 from Thursday, July 16th until Sunday, July 19th.” So at least that is something.