Going spare at Eir: Pricewatch mailbag fills up with complaints

Former customers describe frustrating experiences with telecoms provider

“Everything broke down 30 minutes after the technician left, and continued to do so at intervals,” one former Eir customer said.

“Everything broke down 30 minutes after the technician left, and continued to do so at intervals,” one former Eir customer said.

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Just what is going on at Eir? The story we carried last week about the shockingly bad customer service experienced by one of our readers who was trying to deal with the largest telecoms operator in the State opened the floodgates and we received many more complaints about the company- to join the many, many complaints we have got about it over the last three or four months.

What is striking is how wearyingly similar the complaints are. Here are just six of them.

‘Incompetence in the extreme’

“I read your article this morning on Eir’s customer service (or lack thereof) and it brought memories of my experience flooding back,” starts a mail from Oonagh Carney. “I had an equally awful experience and it’s ongoing. It’s probably bad for my blood pressure to even think about it so I’ll try to summarise.”

Carney’s elderly parents moved to an apartment and she was tasked with organising phone, TV and broadband for them. She priced up options and availability and Eir was about 50 per cent cheaper than Sky at the time so “despite warnings and rumblings from various sources about bad customer service, I went ahead and placed an order on October 28th, 2016, a 12-month contract, €125 a month with initial six-month discount, Sky Sports add on, etc.”

The first appointment to install was November 4th, 2016, but no one from Eir turned up. The second installation appointment was set for November 7th and nobody showed up. On November 16th someone did turn up and they installed the phone and broadband line but there was no mention of a TV service.

“I rang about the TV installation and was told we only had an order for a phone and broadband package, no TV package. Eir’s system had no record of the TV package order and it had to be put through the system again and we would have to wait a few weeks for installation as they were ‘very busy’.”

On November 21st, 2016, “due to total and utter frustration at trying to get Eir to supply a service to me I cancelled the order which had never actually been fully installed. If I thought I had received bad customer service up to that point, they were only getting warmed up,” she says.

“To get Sky installed they needed a UAN number; Eir said the UAN would be on the first bill generated on the account. I explained no bill would be generated as the contract was not proceeding so please may I have the UAN . . . but no, I was told repeatedly it would only be available on the first bill. I wasted hours of my life trying to get this.”

At one stage Carney lost an entire working day in the office on the phone from Eir to Sky to ComReg just to get the UAN. “I’m self-employed, time is money and this was wasting my time in an unbelievable fashion. Their utter incompetence has a real financial cost for people who have to spend hour upon hour calling them to remedy situations that should never arise.”

Eventually she got the magic UAN from someone in the Eir cancellations department “who gave it to me within about 30 seconds of talking to her. We got my parents changed to Sky, which was efficiently installed by a total gentleman, who gave my technology-adverse parents a great deal of patient attention to explain how to work everything.”

She thought she had finished with Eir and that her woes were over. “I was wrong; I realised I was being billed by Eir since November 2016 in the amount of €52 per month for the contract that had never gone ahead. After many more wasted hours on the phone, in June 2017, I got an email from an Eir case manager to say a cheque for €321 would issue and that the account fully shut down.”

She continued to get emails notifying her of new invoices for €52 each month and to contact Eir for failure to pay. “Each time I emailed the case manager directly to advise I had no intention of contacting Eir and to please shut down the account. “

At the start of last November she was assured by email that the account was (finally) shut down and she would have no further correspondence from Eir. At the end of November another email telling her €52 euro was owed arrived followed by an email saying it was overdue, then an email with the next bill and so on and so on.

At the beginning of March she got an email to say a new bill was available to view and that her parents owed €208. “I can’t begin to explain my frustration. Trying to get the account installed was bad, trying to get the UAN was worse and now the ongoing billing for an account that never existed? No one seems to know how to get anything done – it’s incompetence in the extreme. I genuinely have no idea what to do other than continually send emails requesting payment to the account manager.”

Threats of debt collectors

Fidelma Lindsay has been attempting to disengage herself from Eir since August 2016. “After many, many attempts – it must run into 20-30 calls – to get confirmation of closure of the account and having been promised each time it would be sorted I finally contacted ComReg,” she writes.

“Along the way I received emailed confirmation of closure, sympathy, apologies and threats of being handed over to debt collectors. With ComReg as intermediary I received an apology again and a promise it would be sorted. However, with a short break in January of this year, it has all started again. The man who had reassured me it was all over and to contact him directly if any more problems does not even acknowledge my emails to him. I have no idea what to do next.”

‘They owe me a lot of money’

“I am contacting you regarding the story of Ann and her problems with Eir customer service,” starts a mail from Rebecca Bissell. “I have had a shockingly similar problem over the last eight or so months. So similar it is almost untrue.”

She and her family moved house about two years ago, just as they refurbished and opened a small business in Westport. “I cancelled our home landline and internet via phone and then email shortly after we moved in and after the final payments thought nothing of it.”

With a new business to run, the following year was a busy and “a highly stressful time,” she says. It was so busy that she did not notice that Eir had started taking payments again. “When I did notice, I immediately contacted Eir and queried it. I was passed around department to department, until we realised it was the old landline account from our last house. I was promised it would be quickly sorted, any money owed refunded and that would be the end of it. I was given a case number, like Ann, and I passed over all the information I was given and made sure the bank stopped the direct debit.”

She waited a few weeks, as told and then rang again. “After being passed through several people (we were on the “old” system) I was told that the case was still pending, call back in another week. I dutifully did this, even though it was taking me around 40 to 50 minutes each time I rang due to being on hold. Sometimes being cut off after being on hold for around 10-15 minutes.”

Christmas came, and went and in January she rang again. “This time I was told they had no information for my case, no contact numbers, no email address for me and no record of the payments taken (which I had). I had given all this information over the phone several times, and by email. I sent it by post this time, with the emails confirming that this had already been sent. I also lodged a formal complaint on the phone.”

She has been in touch with the company multiple times since. “I have heard nothing, and although they are very helpful on the phone no one can give me an answer. They owe me a lot of money, money that being self employed I could really do with again.”

‘Eir will not receive another penny from me’

Brian Dempsey was “intrigued” to read about Ann’s problems as the “mirror my problem so closely”.

He had a broadband and mobile package with Eir for quite a few years, he says. “In November 2017 I changed to Siro/Vodafone broadband as they offered very good service at a much better price. On December 5th I rang Eir to inform them that I was ending my term with them for broadband and landline.”

In early January he got a text message from Eir to say his “new modem” was being delivered the next day! “I requested the courier to return to sender. I also got a new broadband reference number from Eir and was told it was ready to go! All this happened despite the fact that we were now up and running with Vodafone on their new fast-track modem.”

So he rang Eir on January 6th to ask what was going on. “I was told that we were still with Eir despite the fact that Vodafone confirmed that they had switched over everything having got our UAN number from us in November! I repeated my December conversation. I was speaking to customer care who said she would request a search for my previous conversation to prove that I had had this conversation before. She was to ring me as soon as she got this recording but, surprise, surprise, I have not heard a word. I sent two emails to this effect to which I still have received no reply.”

Then he received a bill for €122. “Needless to say, I have already cancelled my direct debit and, I can promise you, Eir will not receive another penny from me. In fact, tomorrow my wife and I are going to Vodafone to switch our mobiles from Eir also.”

‘We found the whole business very stressful’

“When I read your piece today on Ann’s problems with Eir, I swear I got shivers down my spine,” started the mail from Áine Kelliher. “My husband and I have been married for almost 52 years and have dealt with many and varied service providers and never have we encountered such appalling service. I’ll try to keep it brief.”

At the end of November 2016 the couple entered an agreement with Eir for TV, phone, unlimited broadband and one mobile phone. They were due to be connected on November 30th but no one showed up.

In the middle of December someone did show up and set things up “but Technicians came to check things only to discover we were too far from their cabinet and should never have been connected up in the first place.”

Kelliher rang Eir to explain the problem “only to be asked by operative: ‘What do you expect me to do about it?’ That’s pretty much the Eir standard of customer care. Many fruitless and frustrating calls ensued. We told them we were no longer their customer, at which point they offered us a new contract with a €100 sweetener.

“When we rejected their offer, as we were by then negotiating with Virgin, they told us we were in breach of contract and they refused the release our landline unless we paid them €250. While all this was going on our tv, broadband, etc kept breaking down, so we told them our legal people informed us that it was they who were in breach of contract. Eventually Eir released the landline and we connected with Virgin. I cannot speak highly enough of the service we are receiving since. We found the whole business very stressful.”

‘Even thinking about it is upsetting and annoying now’

“We got a call from Eir in June 2016,” begins the mail from Frank Rowland. “They asked if we would like to upgrade to fibre broadband as part of our renewal. This involved closing our existing account and opening a new one because of the name change to Eir. However, when they came to the house to set up fibre broadband they said we were too far from the exchange and it couldn’t be done. So we cancelled the request for fibre but kept our original broadband and landline service.”

An engineer arrived who said he was contracted by Eir “and they had decided to upgrade the line after all. Two new modems were delivered which we had not requested. We never used them. The engineer put in a second phone line and when we queried he said it was for the upgrade. We received a text saying that our new number was ready to use. We already had a landline number and hadn’t requested a new one. We continued to use our existing landline and broadband.”

The couple were billed for higher amounts than their contract stated and when they complained refunds were organised. “All seemed to be going well. Then we got texts telling us our usage was quite high and ‘gentle reminders’ that our bill was due when it was already paid.”

More direct debits were presented for amounts higher than the €45 per month contract and more than one direct debit was taken in a month for €59 and €61. “We had them returned by the bank .”

He talks of frustrating phone calls when they were told to disregard the text messages. In October 2016 they got a letter from Cabot Financial Services, a debt collection agency acting on behalf of Eir for €71.18.

“The account number quoted on this letter did not match the account number on our bill. I phoned Eir immediately and they advised they would not deal with us. They would only deal with Cabot Financial Services. We demanded a letter of apology and a letter confirming that the debt-collection letter was sent in error and were told ‘That’s not how it works’ and ‘That’s not going to happen.’ We rang again in November 2015 and asked for letter confirming that the Cabot letter was an error. We were told – get this – ‘It doesn’t matter, the account is closed now, it was never opened so it doesn’t matter.’”

The couple wrote a letter of complaint to Eir last April but are still waiting for a reply. “Our next step was going to be ComReg but honestly we couldn’t face telling the story all over again. I know this is what Eir wants. Ignore the problem. Frustrate the customer. And hopefully they will go away.

“We haven’t taken any further actions as we found the whole sorry saga too upsetting. Even thinking about it is upsetting and annoying now. All we want is an apology, an admission that our personal info was incorrectly sent to a third-party debt-collection company without our knowledge or consent – (we never received a bill for amounts involved and did not owe the money, the account number on the letter was not ours) and that the debt-collection letter should never have been issued to us.”

Eir’s response

We contacted Eir in connection with all these issues and received the following statement.

“Firstly, we would like to apologise to each of the customers in question. We are taking the issues they have raised seriously and we will be making the necessary changes to avoid a repetition of such issues arising in the future.

“Our customer care team has investigated each of the cases and we have followed up with those customers that we were able to contact. Those that we didn’t get to speak with we will continue to follow up with until we do.

“We take customer feedback seriously and we are determined to improve our overall customer service levels going forward. We want customers to choose us as their provider and more importantly when they do choose us we want them to remain as customers. We have a responsibility to make that happen. We currently have a dedicated customer service improvement programme under way to identify areas where changes are needed. This programme is spearheaded by the CEO and senior management team within Eir.

“We are confident that as a result of this strategic programme that there will be further visible improvements in the coming months.”

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