‘Eir keeps sending me modems but all I want is my old landline number back’
Pricewatch: Phone and broadband issues are causing stress for these readers
Readers encounter problems with service providers Eir, Sky and Vodafone. Photograph: iStock
And now, normal service is resuming, at least sort of. Complaints about phone and broadband providers continue to pour in but – as these stories show – sometimes the cases are not so open and shut and sometimes we as consumers have to do more to make sure we don’t get caught out.
Mind you we also reckon the communications providers could up their communication game too and maybe simple explanations delivered at first contact would stop these sagas dragging on endlessly and save people from paying over the odds and being disconnected.
First up there’s Eir and a plea from a reader called Amanda for us “to help get her parents out of a pickle”. Amanda’s parents have an out-of-contract account with the provider for a landline and broadband which they pay by bank transfer as they mistrust direct debits.
“In December they paid their bill of €74 via AIB, and got a confirmation reference from the bank. In January they paid a bill for €71.81. Again, this appears on their bank statement.”
Last week the couple were cut off and “all attempts to contact Eir are dead-end recordings requesting payment of €216.42 and making it impossible to go further along that menu. They managed to speak to an agent who directed them to the same dead-end number,” Amanda says.
She says this compounds “a difficult situation as my father just got out of hospital where he was being treated for over a fortnight with Covid, and is still quite debilitated. He is also visually impaired and deaf, and my mother – who also had Covid though less seriously – is his full-time carer. I am in Dublin and haven’t been able to visit them since August. She says Zoom has been their lifeline for months and it has been taken from them.
And staying with Eir, we also heard from a reader called Pat in Kerry. He changed from Sky to Eir in early December, switching his landline and broadband to the new provider. “I gave Eir all my details and they assured me of a seamless transfer and that I would retain my landline number.”
He says the family needed the landline because his father-in-law is ill “and here in Kerry our mobile coverage is erratic. A modem arrived and we connected it and broadband is running fine. However, we were also allocated a new landline number”.
So Pat rang Eir and was assured they would “switch ports” and he would have his old number back. “This never happened despite repeated requests. I then requested to speak to a manager on December 23rd. I was assured that a named manager would call me within 10 minutes,” he says.
There was no call so he rang later and was again reassured that the problem would be sorted. “Every interaction – about 15 to date – I have with Eir generates an email and a modem delivery. I now have a large collection of modems in my hall but no original landline number. Up to a few days ago, we had a dial tone from our ‘new’ number and that is now out of action.”
He says the most recent excuse is that Sky provided the incorrect account information “which is untrue. All Sky information was taken from my online bill and relayed correctly to your employees”.
He was also told that a manager would be in contact with him within seven days. “Is it so difficult for a communications company in the 21st century to connect me with a landline that Eircom installed for me in 2002?”
With regard to the first query from Amanda, an Eir spokeswoman said the payment was being made into a dormant account. “The customer has now amended those details and we have resolved the issue to the customer’s satisfaction.”
However, she said that in the second query from Pat, “unfortunately the necessary steps to resolve this are not within Eir’s remit. The customer must make contact with the previous provider to confirm correct account information and complete the order. Once this is done we can work with the customer to ensure he has his service transferred as soon as possible.”
Bill problems with Sky
Of course, it is not all Eir. We also received a query from a reader about Sky.
“Last May, I switched broadband provider from Sky to Eir, due to persistent issues with Sky broadband that were not satisfactorily resolved,” writes a reader by the name of Frances. “Personnel on the phone were very helpful when we did get through and a fresh router was sent and subsequently a wifi signal booster to no avail, the bandwidths achievable did not satisfy the needs of a teacher, a lecturer, an architect and a third-level student all working from home, so as I was out of contract with Sky, I switched carrier.”
She says the process was not without difficulty as the universal account number (UAN) was not printed on her monthly Sky statement. She tracked the number down “after protracted periods on the phone” and transferred her custom to Eir.
“The Sky hardware was packed up and shoved under the stairs. I checked my bank statement for June, saw no deduction from Sky and promptly forgot about it and got on with life between lockdowns. I then returned to teaching in a Covid climate in September,” she writes.
Then, over Christmas, she checked her bank statements and realised she was paying Sky €35 per month and had paid €210 in total.
She dug out the equipment under the stairs, assuming the charge was for non- return of that and sent it back in early January. She also contacted her bank and cancelled the direct debit.
Then, last week, she got mail saying her service from Sky “could be restricted and could I go on to their webpage to set up a new direct debit”.
So she contacted Sky by phone and after two automatic directions to the website for account queries, she got a live person by requesting “Sales”. “I explained that I was not actually looking for a new service but wanted absolute termination of a service I thought I had terminated last May. It transpires that I am in fact still being billed for TV service even though I have been receiving this service from Eir since late May or early June.”
She says the absence of a bill in June was due to the fact that funds from cancelling her phone and broadband service were paid off her TV account. “I thought that as I was availing of these services within a bundle, that in cancelling, I was cancelling the bundle.”
She says the person she dealt with was extremely helpful, courteous and respectful but the “best she could offer me was that she would put in a 30-day notice as of now, which technically means I am still in debt to Sky to the tune of two further €35 increments. Since I have already subsidised Sky to the tune of €210 so far, this irks”.
She says that after 50 minutes, she ended the call with both her and the agent clear “that a breach of communication had happened last May and despite our polarity about what the solution should be, we were clear that there was no acrimony”.
She says she accepts there “may be a liability to me for non-return of an aged Sky box and dodgy remote, plus router and booster and adds that she can “live with that but the payment of a sum of €210 plus €70 for a service that was not availed of ‘sticks in my craw’”.
Sky listened back to all the phone calls made by our reader and said that “at no stage” did she explicitly say they were cancelling their account.
The customer “did say they were seeing what was available with other operators but also asked if any other broadband was available with us. The customer never gave a cancellation notice and just transferred their broadband and talk using their UAN directly with Eir.
“The customer still has TV with Sky and hasn’t confirmed that they would like to cancel. Their outstanding balance is €35 for TV which is still active.”
She said that “what seems to have happened is the customer has assumed that as their broadband was automatically cancelled when they went to Eir (as happens as such a move is just switching between two retail providers who are both on the Open Eir network) their TV would be cancelled as well. But this is not the case, and the UAN process is very explicitly focused on broadband and talk. We have hundreds of thousands of TV customers who take Eir broadband, so we certainly wouldn’t assume that somebody who moved their broadband from us to Eir would also automatically want to cancel their TV. The customer would need to request their TV be cancelled.”
Vodafone mobile contract
And now, a query from a reader called Richard who is a Vodafone mobile phone contract holder on its Red Connect unlimited plan for which he pays €60 per month. “I tried to see if I could get on to a lower level plan as I’m not getting the benefit of it due to travel restrictions,” he writes.
“It’s a very good plan for overseas travellers. Realistically speaking, I don’t think I’ll be travelling anywhere this year. Vodafone won’t let me out of the contract as it runs until June 22nd. I know the law is on their side but this does seem to be taking advantage of the pandemic whereby I’m not using the full plan benefits and they are profiting more. I did complain officially and I was dealt with most officiously, but they indicated that I should have read the contract.”
A spokeswoman disputed our reader’s version of events. She said his plan was a 24-month contract and includes “unlimited data with our fastest speeds and unlimited texts to any network as well as access to our 5G network. Roaming is just one of the many benefits of this plan and will remain part of the plan when travel opens up again. This gentleman is also on one of our higher value plans which means there is likely to be a free or significantly discounted new handset attached to the contract”.
She also pointed out that the telecoms sector has been “heavily impacted by Covid, so I would dispute the reference to profiting more – at the moment the focus of all of our investment, which has increased to meet demand over the past year, is to ensure that we keep the networks up and working so that we can support the health service, ensure that families are connected and businesses survive at this time”