Eir hit with €3m ComReg fine for missing repair obligations in 2015

13 Apr 2017

An Open Eir van. Image: William Murphy/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

ComReg has issued one of its largest ever fines to Eir for breaching set targets to repair connections in rural areas.

Irish telecoms provider Eir has found itself on the end of a €3m fine – €3,094,000 to be exact – for failing to meet targets for repairing phone line faults in rural areas during 2015.

The issue relates to a series of storms that occurred during the year, which saw thousands of people lose phone services, to which ComReg (Ireland’s Commission for Communications Regulation) claimed Eir did not provide an adequate and quick response.

As the former state monopoly, Eir’s remit under the universal service obligation (USO) means that it has to legally maintain service in rural areas, regardless of whether it is profitable or not.

This includes establishing phone services for people in these areas up to a cost of €7,000, and building and maintaining phone boxes.

Force majeure

In the statement issued by ComReg, Eir had submitted a “force majeure” claim in 2016, claiming that its ability to respond to the faults was hampered by “exceptional weather events in January, November and December 2015”.

Eir backed this up with a series of expert reports on the weather conditions associated with these times.

Having analysed the feedback, ComReg ruled that this claim of force majeure only applies to December of that year.

“Eircom [Eir’s former name] paid ComReg a penalty of €3,094,000 in December 2016 for its failure to meet the [Performance Improvement Programme]-agreed USO quality of service performance targets for 2015,” ComReg said.

“In light of the above, ComReg does not intend to take further enforcement action against Eircom for the 2015 period.”

Not the first legal issue

Last month, Eir took ComReg to court over this very issue, disagreeing with the latter’s “unjustified” demand for Eir to fix line faults in 24 hours or risk facing fines.

“Eir believes that ComReg has overstepped its boundaries in making its determination,” the telecoms provider said in its previous statement.

“The company believes ComReg has imposed new obligations beyond what the regulator is empowered to impose and outside the scope of the dispute.”

An Open Eir Van. Image: William Murphy/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic