Eir’s overall performance improves but old habits are hard to break

Pricewatch: Cancelling a contract proves too difficult for eir as firm sends in the debt collectors

There is good news and bad news for eir on the page the week. We are firm believers in giving praise when it is due and so we’ll go first to the good news.

The company attracted fewer complaints about fixed-line services than its key rivals during the first quarter of this year, according to telecommunications regulator ComReg’s most recent Consumer Line Statistics Report.

The report shows the volume of complaints about eir has decreased across fixed-line and mobile services consistently, over the last six quarters, to their lowest point in the seven years since reporting began.

Complaints about its fixed-line services have fallen to 22.3 complaints per 100,000 subscribers, a 26 per cent decline over three months. In mobile services, eir experienced a 25 per cent reduction in complaints from its mobile customers over the same period with a complaint rate of 2.4 per 100,000 subscribers.

The company said last week the “dramatic improvements in [its] performance is the result of sizeable investment by the company in its customer care since 2020”.

It pointed to “enhanced benefits in roles in customer care [and] improved training for customer care agents, as well as the implementation of a dedicated customer care line for those over 65 years of age, which have combined to contribute to record-low complaint levels.”

Now for the bad news

So that’s the good news, But now the bad.

“Could I please bring to your attention an issue with eir which has been dragging on since October of 2020,” began a mail we received from the west of Ireland last week.

“I am stressed to the max dealing with them as they just cannot seem to do their jobs correctly. They have now set debt collectors on me for money which is simply not owed to them,” the reader called Helena continues.

“I was running a B&B in Galway until Covid came. In October of 2020,” she says.

She decided to leave the business at that point with the phone line and internet connection “to be handed over to the new manager. I contacted eir in October 2020. I vividly remember it because I was two days trying to get through to them and ended up on hold for nearly two hours. As a matter of fact, they hung up on me because they did not know how to deal with a changing of ownership.”

When Helena finally “got talking to someone who knew what they were actually doing... they sent out a change of ownership form via email. I was told to fill it in and email it back and, once done, to contact eir to say the form was sent in.”

Helena says all those directions were followed in October 2020.

As she had to give them 30 days’ notice of her plan to cancel she left the direct debit in place and the following month eir deducted €151.29 from her account. “Then in December 2020, they deducted another €150.69 from my account. I then cancelled the direct debit in December 2020. This was because I submitted the form in October 2020 and it was 30 days’ notice, therefore surely they were covered,” she writes.

Fast forward to the spring of 2021 and bills were coming in my name to the B&B. “The new owner contacted me to say I had letters. So I raised a complaint through eir’s online form and sent in the change of ownership form yet again [the same one from October 2020]. I was then contacted by a man [who] said he was sorting it out and that all bills would arrive in the new owner’s name.”

That did not happen. The bills kept coming in Helena’s name. “So in August 2021 I raised another complaint online and sent in the form again. I heard nothing back, I did not give them my private email as I did not want them bombarding me but they did have my mobile number, nobody rang me until March 2022, some seven months later.”

It was not a happy call. She says she was told – in no uncertain terms – that she had not followed protocol or sent in the change of ownership form. She says she was then threatened with debt collectors.

“After that phone call, I raised yet another complaint. I explained everything again and sent in the same form from October 2020 yet again. I heard nothing back. Then on April 25th, 2022, I received a text from debt collectors Intrum saying I owed eir money and I received another text from them on May 6th, 2022. I believe the amount is well north of €600 as the new manager of the B&B contacted me in January and there was a bill in my name for €671.72. So I assume this is the amount they are looking for.”

She has a change of ownership form sent in October 2020, email proof that it was sent, a bank statement from November and December 2020 showing payments had been made covering any notice period as well as a copy of the second and third complaint.

“I just wanted to bring this to your attention as eir are completely in the wrong here, they have not done their job and nobody can tell me what this €671.72 is for. That figure could even be higher now. The level of stress this has caused is unbelievable. I have always paid my bills on time with no issues. I do not owe them this money. When I departed from the B&B they are the only utility company I have had issues with as they simply have not followed their own procedures.”

In response to our query a spokeswoman for Eir said it had made “contact with the customer, apologised, and arranged a refund. At the time of the change of ownership request the process was complex and we did not manage it correctly. We have since simplified and improved the change of ownership process to ensure errors like this do not happen again.”