German telco Yourtel fined €66,000 for preying on elderly in Ireland

12 Dec 2017

Image: varandah/Shutterstock

People into their 90s were hounded for costs of telecoms services they ultimately never received.

German telecoms operator Yourtel has been slapped with a €66,000 fine after being brought to Dublin District Court by ComReg.

It is understood that the telco had deliberately targeted older and more vulnerable customers in rural Ireland with the offer of cheaper landline services if they switched from Eir.

However, according to the Irish Independent, once signed up, the company didn’t port the customers over from Eir but billed them anyway. When customers understandably stopped paying their bills, they were threatened with legal action and their bills were given to debt-collection agencies.

Following an investigation by ComReg into complaints related to 560 customers ranging in age from their 60s to their 90s, Yourtel pleaded guilty to 88 counts under the Communications Act for charging for services that were never delivered.

Sharp-selling practices will not be tolerated in Ireland

Yourtel entered the Irish market in 2013 and, according to The Irish Times, the company is part of a larger telecoms network with operations in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

ComReg is understood to have received complaints from 17pc of the Yourtel’s customer base of 5,000 people in Ireland, which contrasts with the industry average of 1pc.

Dublin District Court Judge Flann Brennan applied a €750 fine for each of the 88 charges, culminating in a €66,000 fine. This is considerably less than the €450,000 fine the judge could have opted for.

But the message was clear: sharp-selling practices targeting vulnerable, elderly people will not be tolerated in Ireland.

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