Pricewatch: A problem with Eir – yes, yet another one

Getting to what’s at the bottom of a Lidl passata

“I don’t think there is anything to be done at this point, but I feel that the appalling treatment my mother has received from Eir in the past week has to be highlighted,” started a mail we received from a reader called Catherine.

Her mother is “elderly, although quite active, and living alone, relying on the State pension as her sole income. She is the secretary of the local agricultural show; it’s a voluntary role, and as such, she has a mobile phone which is paid for by the show, by direct debit. No payment has ever been missed.”

Where she lives in west Cork, mobile reception is "extremely poor" and Meteor was the only company that worked there. "There was never a problem with Meteor, but since Eir took over, that is a different story," our reader says.

"About a month ago, her phone went wallop, so she needed to upgrade. We went to the Eir shop in Wilton and they told us they had no phones in stock and that she would have to go to Carphone Warehouse – after they had tried to sell her broadband and TV in an area they do not cover," she says.


The pair went along to Carphone Warehouse and Catherine’s mother was signed up with a new phone and a new 18-month contract. “She was given three pages to sign, which she did, after reading them and she kept a copy. That was the only “contract” we saw.”

Catherine says they discussed what plan she required, both in the Eir shop and in Carphone Warehouse and they explained that for most of the year, a low plan was fine and that “she would just go over her minutes in the month or two around the show, as you can imagine. This was all absolutely fine, we were told. No possible issue was highlighted”.

Then, a few days ago, her mobile phone was cut off with no warning. “She did receive two texts the day after the phone was cut off saying that it would be cut off as she had gone over her credit limit. This was the first mention of any credit limit. The bill is paid by direct debit and has never been unpaid,” Catherine says.

There is no debit card attached to the account and the direct debit was not going to be paid until July 15th, so Catherine’s mother contacted Eir and was met “with nothing short of hostility by their credit control team. She offered to pay by cheque, but that would take 21 days to clear (in what world, you may ask). She offered to go to the bank and pay by EFT but she would need a bill, which they had not issued and did not appear online on her MyEir dashboard. They would not email it to her.”

Despite explaining that paying the €177 on her own card would “wipe out her pension for the week and leave her unable to even buy food or petrol, she was forced to pay the full amount on her own card to get the phone re-instated, as she could not be left without a functioning phone. This is an absolute disgrace. I have had bad dealings with this company in the past, but this is sinking to a new low”.

We contacted Eir and received the following statement. “Our customer care team has spoken with Catherine’s mother and apologised for what we appreciate has been a frustrating experience. We have increased the limit on her plan to avoid the situation happening again and also applied a credit to her account.”

Suspicious sauce

A couple of weeks ago a reader called Caitríona found "an extremely disturbing thing when I was cleaning out a box of Lidl passata which had been used in a meal I and my family had just eaten".

She couldn’t see it properly and didn’t want to, but what she could see and feel “seemed like a dead mouse. I was upset and revolted at the thought, as were my family, and worried we would be sick”.

She wrapped up the pack, drove to Lidl and asked to see a manager. None was available but a more junior member of staff had a look and said it looked like mould. “He was apologetic and pleasant and asked me to fill in a complaint form. I did, and asked that I be contacted the next day. Luckily none of us were ill later from eating the contaminated food.”

No contact was made. She tweeted Lidl on the Friday, asking for a response. They tweeted that she should call customer service, which she did. “No complaint form had been received so I reported it again. She asked for pictures and said they would investigate and be in contact shortly.”

Then Caitríona finally opened the box and looked at the thing inside. “Though fascinating in a way, it is really disgusting to think we ate something that this was in. I sent the photographs expecting a response. Some time passed and I emailed again. I received a formal email requesting my postal address so that Lidl’s supplier could send me a letter. I waited. No letter. I emailed again asking what was happening and was told the letter was on the way with a ‘gesture’. Yesterday I received the letter, saying they had investigated, found no systemic problem, were sorry for the quality issue and giving me €15 Lidl vouchers.”

She says that throughout the whole process, “the only person who seemed to realise how horrible this experience was was the staff member in Lidl Sallynoggin [Dublin] and that is because he looked at the thing. This was a significant food contamination issue but I’ve had to chase the whole way, and I feel €15 Lidl vouchers as recompense is very unsatisfactory for such a revolting experience. I emailed them to say as much, but have had no response. I still have the thing wrapped up in the box in the fridge.”

We got in touch with Lidl, sending them the photograph, taken by Caitríona and shown here.

A Lidl spokeswoman said the store had taken this matter very seriously from the outset and quickly identified the strange matter as harmless mould. She sent us a timeline illustrating how it had handled the issue, detailing all the contacts with the customer and the supplier. On the same day our reader made contact with us, Lidl had made contact with her and sent her €50 in vouchers which she was perfectly happy with.