Eir hounds new mother over nonexistent debt

Pricewatch: Ireland’s biggest phone company apologises for failing to deliver in nearly every way

Terrible service: Eir sent a debt recovery agency to collect €14.49 that Barbara didn’t owe. Photograph: David Gould/Photographer’s Choice/Getty

Terrible service: Eir sent a debt recovery agency to collect €14.49 that Barbara didn’t owe. Photograph: David Gould/Photographer’s Choice/Getty

 

Irish companies seem incredibly eager to set debt collectors on people despite having absolutely no business doing so and even when the amounts in question are minuscule. Take this story from Barbara from Mayo, who has been having a ridiculously frustrating time with Eir.

It all started in early March, when one of the phone company’s salesmen arrived at her door two weeks after she had given birth. Barbara told him she had just had a baby and was not really keen on hearing his patter – but he persisted.

“We were having our breakfast, but he somehow wangled himself in the door and sat on the couch while I continued to eat in my dressing gown in front of him. We said that, yes, we were interested in their full package of TV, sports, broadband and phone, and he assured us that high-speed fibre broadband had been rolled out in the Mayo town where we live and that we would be able to have it installed within a week, so long as we signed up there and then.”

Barbara explained that she didn’t like making such decisions without thinking about them and that right now, with the baby in arms – and the breakfast bowl in hand – she was not in a position to decide immediately.

The Eir man was having none of it.

“He told us that he would not be back in the area again and we would miss out. We called him later that day to check a detail of the package again and told him we would think about it and contact him if and when we wanted to go ahead.”

I rushed down the stairs from a screaming baby and answered the door. I told him the baby was crying and that we had not yet made a decision

Despite what he said he was soon back. In fact he arrived at the door the following week, one lunchtime. “I rushed down the stairs from a screaming baby and answered the door. I told him the baby was crying and that we had not yet made a decision. He said he would call again later in the afternoon but that after that he would not be back this way.”

Eventually she convinced him she did not want him to call back that day. “He said, ‘Right,’ and stomped off out the gate – charming, friendly salesperson persona well and truly dropped.”

A few weeks later Barbara decided that she would go with the Eir package but contact the company directly. “They said that they would have to reconnect the landline to make sure we had a fast-enough line speed to be able to have the TV part of the package. To do this they would send an engineer out to connect the line and test it, and they assured us there would be no charge. They did, however, say that we had to open an account with them for the phone and set up a direct debit in order to allow them to perform the checks, again with no cost due unless we went ahead with the full package. We did this. They connected and tested the line, but our speed was not enough to support the TV part of the package.”

Barbara told the agent over the phone that she would cancel the account and asked for confirmation by email, which she got in April.

That was when the real farce began. “Emails and texts for monthly bills from them; a payment taken from my account which I was told they could not refund to me and that I would have to go into the bank and apply to have returned; overdue payment reminders; five phone calls from me to various agents asking them to please cancel the account and being assured every time that this had now been done and that all charges had been removed.”

She decided to ignore the calls and texts, as Eir was not taking any money from her account for the bills.

After asking for all my personal details, which I refused to give, they finally identified themselves as working on behalf of Eir to collect the debt I owed of €14.49

“The straw which broke the camel’s back came last Friday, at 9am, when I got a text from a company I had never heard of asking me to call them urgently. With my father in hospital and very ill, and with a new baby who had been part of a testing programme for various syndromes, I was sure this company must be contacting me with bad news. I searched for the name on the internet. It was a ‘financial solutions’ company with vague, difficult-to-decipher services. I decided I had better call – and after asking for all my personal details, which I refused to give them, they finally identified themselves as working on behalf of Eir to collect the debt that I owed of €14.49.”

She says the company did not ask if this was correct, just whether Barbara would be paying by debit or credit card. “I was so angry. I really felt like I was being harassed, and I honestly did not know how I was going to make it stop.”

She tried Eir’s webchat, asking for a manager to call her. That was not possible, she was told. She sent a webmail via its contact form, again asking for someone to call her back. Again she was told this was not possible. “At this stage I was ready to scream, so I had to stop or it would have ruined my day.”

A few days later, when she felt less stressed, Barbara found a number on her phone for Eir’s sales team. “I got a very nice girl on the line and said to her that I did not want to speak to her but to a manager. She said that was not possible, as she had to try and resolve the problem first. She then assured me, like all the others, that she had removed the charge and closed the account.”

Two days later she got a letter from the debt collector telling her that she had better pay or “further measures would have to be taken”.

Will I end up in court, trying to defend myself, with my word a lone voice against the much louder one of Eir and its debt collectors?

“Will this ever end?” she asks. “Will I end up in court, trying to defend myself, with my word a lone voice against the much louder one of Eir and its debt collectors?”

No, is the short answer.

We got in touch with the company this week.

“We are extremely sorry for the distressing experience that [Barbara] had when dealing with the company,” a spokeswoman said. “A senior member of our customer-care team has spoken with her, to apologise for the poor sales and overall customer-service experience and to assure her that we have taken her feedback on board. We have also provided her with a point of contact in Eir should she have any further issues going forward.”