Eir takes direct debits for account that was never set up

Pricewatch: Aer Lingus and Dunnes fail to impress but Nespresso service is second to none

Eir tried to debit €1,583.21 for an account that was never set up.

Eir tried to debit €1,583.21 for an account that was never set up.

 

“I realise you get a lot of complaints about eir,” started a mail from a reader called Eibhlin. She then went on to tell a truly dreadful story. “I had finally come to accept that eir would not supply us with a service in our new estate, despite the fact that on the open eir map [the company’s scheme aimed at providing broadband in hard-to-reach rural areas] we are clearly marked as being in a live area and the fact that during the building process open eir showed up to ensure the estate was equipped to receive broadband.

“I think this is outrageous but had finally let it go but eir has sprinted past the line that can be considered acceptable.

“Both myself and my partner were at work when we got a text message from BOI telling us eir had attempted to debit €1,583.21 from our joint account but due to insufficient funds it was rejected and we should top up our account. I’m sure you can use your imagination to picture the shock, outrage and terror such a message invoked,” she says.

She points out that had eir attempted to take the money a week earlier “they would have succeeded in taking the money. We had no idea why they were trying to take this and never received a bill or any indication that such an extortionate amount of money was being sought.”

As far as she and her husband knew, all the accounts they had with the company had been cancelled. And, as all such accounts had been cancelled, the couple had no access to the online account where bills are typically sent if one was sent.

“Immediately Noel rang the bank and they went through how to remove eir from the list of approved direct debits on our account. Then both of us rang eir. After each of us being on hold for over an hour” the couple set about trying to find out why eir had attempted to take such a huge amount of money.

She said they were given three accounts.

They were told that an account at their old house, one they thought was closed was still active for almost a month after they moved. “This was, as far as we knew, closed in October. We were also out of contract so there was no way they could be charging us almost €1,583.21. On this account we had TV, fibre broadband, home phone and two mobiles.”

They had wanted to switch to pay as you go but she says eir ignored all requests for the necessary unlocking codes.

Another reason they were given for the attempted withdrawal from their account by eir was the new account created when her husband attempted to move their account to their new house. She said this was never activated as eir refused to send a technician.

Then there was the new account which Eibhlin set up to try to get a service. “I managed to succeed where Noel had failed and I got a technician out. He was a very nice man who told me that eir would need to run a cable from the fibre box about 100m away and that all the ducting was there and the builders did an excellent job in setting up the infrastructure. He also told me eir probably would not do it anytime soon and wished me luck. A few weeks back, as expected, my order was placed on hold until 30th December and I was told this could be extended.”

Then the text from the bank arrived. “We did not know which account had incurred the outrageous charge. The account that was on hold and never activated? The cancelled account that was never activated or the old account that was closed and had been out of contract? Eventually we found out it was account number two. That was also quite a shock.

“How were we being charged for an account which was never set up. Eventually Noel was told it was for the new phones we received. Never before then had anyone uttered the words new phones. Eir never sent us phones. We never requested a phone. They did send us two new sim cards which we attempted to return to the shop but they instructed us to bin them as they were for a bill phone and we were going to pay as you and the account had been terminated.

“As yet, eir has not even apologised, or responded to emails on this latest but by far biggest issue. The stress the past few days have caused is unbelievable. I was almost terrified to put money in my account in case eir managed to somehow take it. As I said, if this happened a week earlier we would have missed our mortgage repayment (our second ever repayment). We are also due to get married in May so our finances are fairly tight at the moment.

“We are also out of pocket €12.70 as the bank charged us for missing the direct debit.

“Eir has brought out the absolute worst in us in the past few months. We get so annoyed over the phone and over email,” she says. “I have managed to speak to a few very nice people over the phone but nine times out of 10 they are aggressive. I understand that they mainly talk to irate customers and it’s probably not pleasant but when they answer the phone annoyed it only makes it worse for everyone.”

Response

We contacted eir and received the following statement: “We apologise to this customer for the mistaken attempt to direct debit from their account early cancellation charge for two mobile phone contracts. Any fees should have been waived entirely because the customer was unable to receive broadband and this was our error. We have called the customer to apologise and credited their mobile account to compensate for the missed direct debit fee. We have also waived all the remaining charges on the related accounts. The customer has received their unlocking codes and we have ensured that the customer will not be contacted by eir again.

“Eir is working very hard to improve our customer care and in this case we have failed.

“Regarding their original broadband order, open eir has made multiple attempts to install broadband services at the customer’s home and, unfortunately, their housing estate was built without the necessary infrastructure for eir to install the service. We have previously apologised to the customer and advised them that the next step was to ask the developer that built the estate to get in contact with open eir to try to resolve the situation. Until the developer engages with open eir, we cannot deliver broadband to the estate.

“We encourage all housing developers to engage with open eir during the building process to ensure that the infrastructure is in place for their new homeowners to receive broadband when they move in. Similarly we would encourage all new home buyers to confirm that broadband infrastructure is in place before purchasing a home.”

Stranded in Chicago

We got two real-time complaints from Aer Lingus passengers who were stranded in Chicago when they made contact with us earlier this month.

First there was Gina. “I arrived from Phoenix Arizona to O’Hare International Airport Chicago for a connecting flight to Dublin last night, November 3rd. In Phoenix United Airlines would not issue me with a boarding pass for Dublin and told me it would be looked after by Aer Lingus when I arrived in Chicago,” she says.

Lack of boarding passes leaves passengers stranded in Chicago. Photograph: Reuters
Lack of boarding passes leaves passengers stranded in Chicago. Photograph: Reuters

“On arriving at the Aer Lingus desk well within our flight time, myself and 11 other people had the same card saying ‘This is not a boarding pass, contact the operating airline at the connection city for your boarding pass’,” her mail continues.

The lady on the desk informed the group that the flight was closed. “We asked to see a supervisor and were told she would see us once the flight had departed! There was no reasoning with her when she arrived at the desk at approximately 10pm.”

The group was told they could not get a flight home until the Tuesday and would have to pay $200.

“Everyone started phoning Aer Lingus,” she says. “A gentleman very kindly helped me after holding for 55 minutes on his phone and got me a flight for the Monday on the 4pm flight. Why did she tell us Tuesday when Monday was available? She was extremely unhelpful. She then walked away from us and did not return. We had to book into a hotel at our own expense.” She concludes by saying she was appalled at how she was treated.

Another passenger

Next up was fellow passenger Ryan. “I am presently sitting in the lobby of an overpriced airport hotel with 10 other individuals after experiencing a frightening example of the operating procedures and standard of customer service offered by Aer Lingus,” his mail starts.

In August he read several Pricewatch articles which highlighted readers’ complaints about Aer Lingus. “In hindsight it seems like an unheeded warning but my positive past experiences with the airline and its reputable standing in our home country and abroad left me with little concern for the journey ahead.”

He says he and others passengers had tickets to Dublin with a stopover in Chicago coming from different parts of the US with different carriers for the first leg (mainly United Airlines). All of them failed to give passengers their boarding cards for the second leg of the journey upon arrival. The issue was raised with United Airlines by a number of passengers prior to them boarding the first flight but they were assured that it was not an issue, they just had to approach Aer Lingus for the second boarding card.”

He says a number of the flights including his own were up to 20 minutes early arriving in O’Hare “but the Aer Lingus desk refused to issue boarding cards on arrival even with more than one hour to go before the flight. To add insult, when the supervisor returned more than two hours after passengers had arrived at the desk, she refused to accept any responsibility or listen to the grievances of passengers. She reiterated over and over that it was our fault for missing the flight and charged all passengers $200 to rebook the next available flight which was two days later and laughed at the idea of accommodation being provided.”

He says that passengers who booked through third-party sites such as Skyscanner were offered “absolutely no assistance whatsoever by those at the desk”.

He says the supervisor “made every excuse she could think of to fob the passengers off such as over and over saying flights were delayed so approach United for reimbursement which was completely untrue for the majority of passengers affected. Finally, in the middle of speaking with one of the group and without saying a word the supervisor walked away and did not return.”

Like Gina, he says he was told the only flight available was Tuesday but, like her, he was able to book a flight on the Monday.

“I hesitate to use such heartfelt words but this was an appalling way to be treated and an absolute disgrace to those who have worked hard to promote the airline’s reputation.”

We put both stories to Aer Lingus and a spokeswoman sent us the following statement: “Check-in for transatlantic flights closes 75 minutes before the scheduled departure time of the flight and in this instance those travelling did not check in on time. While we seek to facilitate onward check-in, it is not always possible, as was the case here. In recognition of the inconvenience caused, in this instance we will ensure the rebooking fee of $200 is refunded. Aer Lingus recommends that guests purchase travel insurance so that they can claim for eventualities outside of our control.”

Dunnes Stores refunds

“My name is Karen and I hope you can help as I think my consumer rights are being breached,” starts the next mail we received.

“Just over one week ago I purchased three scarves from Dunnes Stores. I wished to return these – tags still attached. However, a couple of days later my purse was stolen with receipts etc inside,” she says.

“I obtained proof of purchase [per consumer information and your articles] in the form of my bank statement which showed the amount and I returned with the scarves to Dunnes Stores,” she continues.

She explained the situation and was less than pleased when the retailer refused to issue a refund on the grounds that Karen’s bank statement is not itemised to show which department she spent in.

By offering a customer an exchange, Dunnes Stores is doing more than it needs to. Photograph: ©Fran Veale
By offering a customer an exchange, Dunnes Stores is doing more than it needs to. Photograph: ©Fran Veale

“When I asked what difference it made they told me that I could have spent it in grocery! The scarves were €69 each, a total of €207, my bank statement shows €207 and yet they are telling me that they can only offer me an exchange. I asked for a till receipt re-print as I could tell the exact day and the till I was served at. I provided a description of the person who served me and I gave the approximate time that I was served but they cannot locate any details. Are my consumer rights being breached?”

The short answer to this question is no. In fact, by offering Karen an exchange Dunnes is doing more than it needs to. It is not obliged to give her a refund under these circumstances as there does not appear to be anything wrong with the scarves. Even if they were faulty, it would have the option of repairing or replacing them first before it considered a refund. The presence or otherwise of a receipt in this case is mostly irrelevant.

Good news

Customer service at Nespresso is impressive. Photograph: Reuters/ Fabrizio Bensch
Customer service at Nespresso is impressive. Photograph: Reuters/ Fabrizio Bensch

We don’t often hear good news stories so when we do we like to draw attention to them.

“Our Nespresso Coffee machine given to us two years ago stopped working and I went to House of Fraser where it was purchased,” writes Muireann Ní Mhóráin. “A courteous shop assistant advised me to contact Nespresso.

“I went to the Nespresso shop and met another helpful courteous shop assistant who explained that I should contact Customer Services.

“I did that and Nespresso arranged for collection of the machine but leaving a replacement. All this happened and within a week our repaired machine was delivered back to us, all at no cost. If a company were to be awarded for excellent customer service, Nespresso would be my nomination.”

You can’t say better than that, really.

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