Interim deal reached for stricken Smart customers

3 Oct 2006

The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) said this evening that a deal has been struck with Eircom following a day of intense negotiations. The 45,000 Smart Telecom customers who had been cut off last night will see services resume in three days’ time.

ComReg said that within three days Smart customers will be allowed to make local calls and national calls, as well as receive incoming calls.

The regulator has described the deal it has struck with Eircom as an “interim solution” and has put information on its website to give them information to select a new operator.

This suggests that the resumption of services is temporary and other operators in the market, Eircom included, are poised to sign up the 45,000 telephone customers.

The result will be something of a rapid land-grab between the various operators for the stricken customers.

ComReg stated: “When the interim arrangements have been implemented, customers will be able to select any telephone provider of their choice. This will provide operators with an opportunity to inform customers of the range of different products and services that are available in the marketplace.”

Last night, without warning, the 45,000 customers learned that their telephone service had been switched off.

The decision by Eircom was made over some €4m worth of debt that Smart has not paid Eircom.

Smart Telecom is understood to have ratcheted up bills of over €36m trying to market its services to Irish users. However, the company failed to bring in sufficient business to match this expenditure.

It emerged that the company’s investors have been spending €3m a month to keep the company afloat.

In recent weeks founder and CEO Oisin Fanning stepped down from the company while the company decided to reduce its headcount from 450 workers to only 100 employees.

The sudden move by Eircom was roundly criticised by politicians and other operators in the marketplace for the lack of warning the customers received before losing their telephone service.

By John Kennedy