ComReg fines Three €575,000 over contract changes

19 Dec 2017

Three customers will be able to seek refunds from the company. Image: Denys Prykhodov/Shutterstock

The fine comes after Three failed to comprehensively notify customers about contractual changes.

Communications regulator ComReg today (19 December) published a notice detailing the fine incurred by Three Ireland after investigations into contractual changes that had been made by the company earlier in 2017.

The changes to the contracts were made in March and April of this year, and ComReg found the procedures and conditions put in place by Three “had the effect of disincentivising customers from changing service provider”.

All pay-as-you-go customers were told on 3 March that changes to their plan’s terms and conditions would come into force on 3 April, and any customers that wanted to cancel were directed to call a 1800 number.

ComReg fielded a large quantity of complaints

A “significant volume” of consumer complaints was then noted by ComReg, with many people raising concerns about being unable to get through to the designated 1800 number. “The nature of the complaints varied, but the majority of complainants were unhappy that they were unable to gain access to the notified 1800 number,” said ComReg.

The regulator then examined the proposed contractual changes and issued a non-compliance notice to Three Ireland. The company agreed to implement a series of steps to resolve the issues that led to the slew of complaints in the first instance.

ComReg said Three failed to adequately advise customers about how their contracts would be altered; did not enable customers to exit contracts without penalty after hearing of the changes; and failed to ensure that the conditions and the procedures for termination of contracts did not act as a disincentive to those seeking to change their service provider.

Three has taken steps to fix the issue

Three has committed to refunding any customer who was charged a penalty fee as a result of the changes, and it has also informed customers of the contract changes for a second time, allowing them to exit without penalty if they so wish.

Cancellation requests are being fielded through a number of channels: “Three customers will be able to notify Three of their cancellation requests by phone, post, online chat or by visiting a retail store, and Three will promptly confirm such cancellation requests using the same channel of communication.”

Three also added that its call centres would be “fully resourced” to deal with an increase in call volumes following contract change notifications, and it is also availing of a third-party auditor to monitor compliance going forward.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects