Mobile operator 3 fined for overstating subscriber numbers

28 Sep 2010

The €1,500 fine imposed on mobile operator 3 Ireland for overstating its subscriber numbers highlights weaknesses in the Irish telecoms regulatory framework, a broadband lobby group said today.

It is understood 3 paid a fine of €1,500 to ComReg relating to the overstatement of its quarterly subscriber numbers since 2006.

3 Ireland also agreed to have independent analysts verify its subscriber data over the next 12 months.

The telecoms company has also agreed to submit corrected data within 21 days.

3 has about 310,000 active customers in Ireland. The subscriber numbers that were overstated include subscribers to 3 Broadband services and 3’s prepaid voice customers.

However, broadband lobby group IrelandOffline has said the scenario highlights weaknesses in the regulatory power of ComReg and urged a better legislative backing to issue stiffer fines.

“All this actually means that if 3 pay €1,500 to ComReg within 21 days then ComReg will not proceed any further. It is therefore not a REAL fine but an offer of a right to purchase an Indemnity From Prosecution,” IrelandOffline said.

“This will not act as an effective future deterrent against any licenced operator, no matter how small. Given their turnover and size anything less than €150,000 would not even be noticed.

“It amounts to an invitation to all large operators to mislead and obfuscate in future and will result in equally distorted misinformation being peddled as official statistics and that the price of getting caught is now set at €1,500.”

It is understood that the charge in this case was of a summary nature and not an indictable one so therefore ComReg wouldn’t have been in a position to fine up to 10pc of turnover.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years