An elderly Donegal couple was reportedly left without a phone connection for six days after their bill soared to almost €300.
The couple, who are in isolation, were left distressed when their phone and internet connection was unexpectedly stopped, despite them having an ‘Unlimited’ package.
The pensioners were left confused when they discovered their usual bill of €73 had shot up to €277. It later emerged that they had gone beyond their ‘fair usage’ limit and incurred the extra charges for home phone calls.
They were first alerted to an issue on Good Friday, when they received a message to contact their provider. The man rang the company on his mobile, but after holding for a considerable length of time his credit ran out. They were then forced to go to a neighbour’s house, leaving their cocoon, to make calls.
With the help of a neighbour contacting the provider numerous times, the couple’s service was eventually reconnected six days later.
In light of this incident, Donegal Deputy Pearse Doherty has warned people to be wary of so-called “unlimited” telephone call bundles from phone companies.
The Sinn Féin TD has called on service providers not to disconnect customers during this crisis and not to enforce any fair-usage caps.
Deputy Doherty said the practices are “harsh and unfair”.
He said: “These providers are offering so-called ‘unlimited’ calls to customers as part of their packages. The reality is very different, and these packages are in fact limited and subject to fair-usage caps in the small print of the contract.
“As people are cocooning and staying at home, they are depending on their landlines, mobiles and internet to arrange food, prescriptions and to stay in touch with family more than ever before.
“I have recently been contacted by an elderly couple in Donegal who had signed up for the so-called unlimited ‘eir Broadband Talk Mobile World’ package which offered them ‘unlimited anytime local and national calls to landlines, unlimited calls to UK and defined international destination landlines and mobiles, unlimited anytime calls to Irish mobiles’.
“The couple, who are pensioners, had chosen this package to make sure they could stay in touch with family and friends before the crisis. As the crisis developed, they relied on their landline as their link to the outside world.
“Having paid their bill on time each month, they were distressed when their landline was disconnected by Eir at the start of Easter weekend, in the middle of their billing cycle, without warning. They were told that they had exceeded the fair usage caps in the small print of the contract. Eir then refused to reconnect the couple’s landline without first receiving payment in the amount of hundreds of Euro. This is grossly unfair, deceitful and is deliberately misleading and dangerous.”
Deputy Doherty is urging customers to pay close attention to their bills and contracts.
He said: “As monthly bills start to come through the letterbox for the period in which people have been staying at home, I am asking people to be mindful of the small print. It shouldn’t be the case that people with ‘unlimited’ packages have to monitor their usage but unfortunately the recent actions of Eir have shown this to be the reality.
“I am calling on Eir and other service providers to cut the nonsense and be clear with customers. Service providers need to stop hiding behind the small print and misleading people. The package is either unlimited or it is not.
Doherty concluded: “My colleague and party spokesperson on Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, David Cullinane TD and I, are calling on the Minister to immediately engage with service providers and with ComReg to ensure that commitments given by service providers not to disconnect customers are honoured and that the fair usage small print is not enforced during this crisis.”