Customers at their wits’ end over Eir

Pricewatch: Attempt to get broadband service leads to ‘nightmare’ experience

Regular readers will know that Eir has featured on this page quite a bit over the last year and although the company has promised a dramatic overhaul of its customer service department, the complaints are still coming in and we have two this week. “I am really sorry that I am asking of your time to help me with this,” starts a mail from a reader called Fidelma.

“I wish I could take care of the matter myself but I am at my wits’ end. I recently moved home to take care of my mum (widow), who shattered her pelvis in a fall. I am a single mum of three and having broadband is a luxury item for us,” she continues.

“At my previous address we had Sky and there was never an issue. When I moved, Sky couldn’t provide a service due to the rural setting. I contacted Eir on July 19th and spoke to a rep who assured me once I gave my bank details that no money would be taken out of my account until they could assure me of a service.”

On that call Fidelma was told to wait until she received a text from the company and when she did she was told she would then have to follow up with a call five working days later. "Needless to say I received no text or anything further. On August 11th €59.15 was removed from my account. On the 12th and 15th of August I spent two solid days on the phone to Eir and also emailing them contacting them on Facebook Messenger and web chat."

She says she dealt with “many rude reps and two nice ones”.

Each time she spoke to Eir she was assured that “I had no account and everything was cancelled and I would be issued a refund in 60 days.” That did not happen.

“I have now received another email from them with a new invoice. As it is the weekend the customer care is not open. Due to previous interactions after relaying my situations multiple times on the web chat and Facebook Messenger, I have been told my issue can be only dealt with over the phone.”

She says the customer care line is open between 8am and 6pm from Monday to Friday when she is at work and she says she would expect to be “held in a queue for over an hour”.

She says she really believed that after spending “two whole days” previously on the phone “that last time that it would sort it. The stress this is causing me is unfair and unnecessary. I am trying to work, take care of my mother and my daughters and cannot see how I can resolve this. If I cancel the direct debit (which I never authorised to be used as such) will they hand it over to a debt collector? All for a service I never received. I am still without broadband as I am terrified that I cannot escape Eir.”

She says reps have hung up the phone on her and another asked her: “What do you want me to do about it?” She says she has been promised that people would return her calls but “nothing and no help has come”.

Her mail concludes with a plaintive “Please, please help – it may not seem like much money but to me it is a lot and I am worried it will continue. I don’t know what else to do and the stress and the lack of any progress is like a nightmare.”

Phone cut off

And then there was this one.

“One year ago in June 2018 Eir cut off my contract phone and I lost my number,” writes Maxine. The company was supposed to cancel her broadband and her TV but she wanted to keep her mobile phone. Instead “everything was cancelled”.

She says this caused her a lot of distress as she was moving country and while she was going to be overseas – in Lebanon – she needed an Irish phone as she has a serious medical condition which was being treated in Ireland.

To replace her old number she got a pay-as-you-go phone also with Eir and passed the details to her medical team in Ireland.

Maxine has a brain tumour “and had surgery before I left Ireland in June. My bloods were not correct this summer and I am awaiting a call from my team,” she writes.

She lost her phone service at the end of September and has tried to resolve the issue using Eir’s web chat but every time she has tried it has been unsuccessful. “Even today my chat was dropped three times and have been told different stories as to why my service is not working.”

She has been told there is not enough credit on her account . She says there is €20 on the account and she has been told her phone package does not allow to have the phone as it is set up.

She says the problems have been compounded as she accesses her Irish bank accounts using her Irish mobile phone.

On the day she wrote to us - last Monday - she said she had spent two hours on webchat with Eir and was then told she would have to wait another 48 hours to be contacted by technical support. “I was reduced to tears in front of my 11- and eight-year-old sons. I am really distressed over this and at my wits’ end. I really hope your influence will help.”

We contacted the company and asked not only about these problems but about how improvements in its customer care offering were coming along.

“A year ago we began the process to bring all customer care roles back in-house, a huge programme of work which included the building of a new centre in Sligo, on a green field site and the upgrading and expansion of two more new care centres in Cork and Limerick. Some 1,200 employees have been hired and trained across care, retail and sales. Those people are now established in their roles and some have been promoted to team lead and trainer positions in recent months,” a spokeswoman said.

“We are proud of all that has been achieved so far but this programme is by no means complete. We will continue to invest to meet our goal of a best in class care service for our customers. We have seen huge improvements in the quality of care our customers are receiving, but of course not every interaction is perfect. We have reached out to the customers you have highlighted to us, to apologise that they did not receive the standard of care they should expect. We have resolved those issues and will continue to work to ensure the betterment of our care service.”

Shopping online from China

Next up there is a reader called Bryan who is dismayed at the quality of some clothes he bought from China and with the aftercare he received.

Bryan says that when the clothes arrived “they were the wrong size, bad quality, had defects, did not match the description, etc”.

So he immediately wrote to the company seeking a return address and a refund “which they have not given me. One item never arrived and they will not refund me for the item. Instead they are insisting they will resend the item which I have refused but to no avail.”

Bryan wonders if he has any rights when it comes to getting his money back. “I am not entirely sure the company are Chinese as the website doesn’t say this, but the goods arrived from China. I had a look at their refund policy and it contained gems like ‘Note that we can accept goods only in case it is hanging by the wall.’”

None of that sounds great. But it does serve as a timely reminder that when it comes to shopping online you need to have your wits about you.

When you buy from a website based in the European Union you have many rights thanks to a consumer rights directive which came into force across in 2014.

If you buy something online and it is faulty, you have exactly the same rights as if you bought it in a shop and you are entitled to a repair, a refund or a replacement. Under the directive, an online seller must give you specific information, including the price, any taxes that may apply, delivery costs and details of what to do if you change your mind. You also have a cooling-off period of at least 14 days, starting from the date you receive the order. Before the end of the 14 days, an order can be cancelled and the item returned.

You also have extra rights if your goods are not delivered on time. Generally speaking, online retailers have 30 days to get your stuff to you unless you agree otherwise.

However all of these rights apply only to transactions that happen within the EU. So if you buy clothes from Dave's Dodgy Deals in Doha you can expect your rights to be significantly diminished.

And that is what is happening here.

More and more people are buying direct from Chinese sites, lured by the promise of dramatic discounts but – as in so many areas – if something seems too good to be true then it is too good to be true.

When shopping in sites outside the EU – either those based in Beijing or (soon) Bristol, you will need to be wary of unexpected charges such as increased taxes and inflated delivery charges. There may also be safety concerns about some products as something sold from outside the EU does not have to meet certain standards.

And when you buy from outside the EU you don’t automatically have rights enshrined in law to return an item even if it is faulty or not as described.

Bryan has fought a good fight but he could still end up on the losing side. He can’t even arrange for a chargeback on the items which have already been delivered because his bank is unlikely to entertain him, although be might be able to convince his bank to give him money back for the items which never arrived.

All of this is not to say that people should never buy from China or other countries that offer little by way of protection but it is always going to be a gamble, so you might be well advised to keep your spending under a certain limit and spend only as much as you are willing to lose should everything go pear-shaped.

It is also worth bearing in mind when buying clothes that sizes in different parts of the world can vary and a large in one country can be a medium in another one. If you are buying from far-flung places, check the feedback and reviews of the seller and their products and if you can’t find contact details before you buy then maybe you shouldn’t be buying there at all, no matter how good the deal seems.

Good-news stories

We like to feature good-news stories on the page and would do so more frequently it we could. We got two in the space of two days last week that we are delighted to highlight.

"I would like to commend the National Concert Hall for their resolution of an issue I had with a considerably out-of-date voucher," starts a mail from a reader by the name of Richie Ryan.

“Their IT system didn’t allow the voucher to be processed but the manager issued me two complimentary tickets for the concert I wished to attend,” he says. “I suspect the two tickets may have cost slightly more than my voucher. Either way I feel like a winner. That’s not something I often feel when using vouchers.”

And then there is Brittany Ferries, which another reader, Eddie Duggan, says provided him and his family with some "outstanding service".

“My family of three travelled the Roscoff/Cork route on October 12th,” he writes. “Shortly before boarding, my daughter was taken severely ill. We informed the check-in staff and they provided a wheelchair to help her board, they upgraded us to a vastly superior cabin at no extra charge, and provided a crew member to take my daughter to her cabin.”

He says the ferry company also provided him and his family with a disembarkation assistance.

“We can only try to express our gratitude to the check-in staff and crew members for their assistance and for their cheerful , helpful and friendly manners. Can you please pass on our thanks to all your staff involved?”

Yes. Yes, we can.

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