Eir insists staff instruction to hide complaints details from customers ‘taken out of context’

0

A judge described as “disgraceful” how Eir threatened staff with “disciplinary action” if they handled customer complaints according to Irish law.

“Under no circumstances are the complaints number or complaints webpage address to be provided to any customer,” Eir’s training manual for customer service agents said. “Any agent found to be doing this will be subject to a disciplinary under call avoidance.”

However, Eir says the instruction was taken “out of context”.

The training guidance emerged in a case taken by the telecoms regulator, ComReg, against Eir for not correctly dealing with customer complaints.

Eir pleaded guilty to 12 counts of not complying with legal requirements relating to its complaints-handling processes. The firm admitted it failed to correctly deal with the customer complaints as charged, and has paid a €7,500 fine,

However, it says the paragraph relating to staff instructions around customer complaint telephone numbers and websites was “taken out of context”.

It added that this was part of “training material for new customer service agents”, requiring agents to transfer a call rather than asking a customer to call a second time.

“The transfer of a call to the complaints team, rather than giving the Eir complaints phone number and asking them to make a call themselves, is a better experience for the customer,” the telecoms firm said in a statement.

It furthermore described ComReg’s characterisation of the training material as “incorrect”, “regrettable” and “deeply concerning”.

It also rejected arguments “accusing [Eir] of instructing our customer care team to not comply with regulatory obligations”.

Eir added that “the claims by ComReg, based on documents they interpreted incorrectly, could have been easily clarified had they engaged with us directly in advance of the court hearing”.

ComReg said the company had made “deliberate decisions” not to handle complaints in an acceptable manner.

The watchdog added that customer care staff at Ireland’s biggest telecoms firm were warned not to give out the right customer complaint numbers or website address unless callers used specific “trigger words”.

These meant, the regulator said, that calls would only be transferred to the proper complaint line if the customer used terms such as “code of practice”, or mentioned ComReg.

Not using the trigger words typically meant they were promised “callbacks” from a team leader or supervisor, which never happened in several instances.

The issue is set to be raised at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications, according to vice chairperson of the committee, Fianna Fáil Senator Gerry Horkan.

The instruction has been criticised as “bizarre” by another member of the Dáil committee, Independent Senator Gerard Craughwell.

The court heard that in one of the cases, after four attempts, a customer got the correct number when ComReg assisted, and he could proceed with his complaint.

The district court also heard that a mother who was unable to make 999 calls when her daughter needed “urgent” medical attention was wrongly told there was nothing wrong with her service. Her father also ended up in hospital after a missed delivery of his breathing machine.

“I cannot understand how a company that takes as much money from customers as Eir could act in this way,” said Mr Craughwell, commenting on the case.

ComReg said it did engage with Eir in advance of the court hearing and that it furnished the firm with the controversial paragraph during its investigation.

“This manual was provided to ComReg by Eir in the course of a formal investigation into Eir’s complaints-handling processes and procedures,” the watchdog said in a statement last night.

“It formed part of the book of disclosure in the prosecution.”

ComReg also added that Eir “did not raise objection to the facts underlying any of the 10 cases before the court” and that it was “convicted in each of the 10 cases before the court”.

Eir said that it will not be appealing against the district court judgement.

Figures from ComReg show that Eir has dramatically reduced the number of complaints made against it to the regulator. However, it remains one of the most complained-about companies according to other guides.

Earlier this year, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) reported that Eir was the most complained-about firm in the country in 2023, followed by Ryanair, Currys and Vodafone.

The company has invested around €1bn in upgrading its networks and customer service systems over the last five years, according to CEO Oliver Loomes.

“Historically, Eir did not always get it right,” Mr Loomes told RTÉ’s The Business radio show last Saturday.

“But we’re very aware of that and we’re learning from it and we’re improving.”

link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *