Eircom fined for pestering customers

Eircom fined for pestering customers

EIRCOM have paid €35,000 to charity and were spared a criminal conviction for pestering former customers with unwanted marketing calls and text messages.

Dublin District Court heard the company, which has recently re-branded itself Eir, had complied with Judge John O'Neill's order to donate the money to charities in lieu of a fine and a conviction. Finalising the case which had been adjourned until today Judge O'Neill ordered a strike out.

The court had heard earlier that Eircom was the most complained of firm in Irish telecoms industry for breaking the data protection regulations.

Judge O'Neill heard evidence of a catalogue of incidents in which the company, which has a record for breaking data protection laws, continued to send messages or call former customers who had repeatedly told Eircom they did not want them.

He said the company, which blamed “human error”, gave promises, reassurances and undertakings but the people who complained were “blatantly ignored”.

The offence can result in a €5,000 with a recorded criminal conviction. He noted the company's guilty plea and apology and that they want to put in place new measures to prevent this from happening again.

Judge O'Neill said it would be better if charities benefited from the money and had adjourned the case until today.

He had ordered them to give €15,000 to Pieta House, €10,000 to the Laura Lynn Children's Hospice and €10,000 to Our Lady's Children's Hospital Crumlin.

Prosecution counsel Ronan Kennedy told the court that the company has entered guilty pleas to seven charges for breaching data protection privacy regulations.

In evidence, Assistant Data Protection Commissioner Tony Delaney had told the court that on May 14, 2013, he received a complaint from a former Eircom customer. He continued to receive unsolicited calls from Eircom despite asking them to stop on each occasion.

“He was telling them on every call 'please do not be calling me again',” said Mr Delaney.

The man believed this this “represented an unwarranted intrusion into my privacy”. The same man continued to get another 10 calls until March 2014. By then he had received 50 unwanted telesales calls from the company which he had stopped using in 2009.

Another man received a promotional text message which did not have an obligatory “opt out” out feature. The same mistake had been made in 11,636 text messages sent out during the same marketing campaign however the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner received just one complaint.

The watchdog received a complaint in February this year from a former customer man who had been continually getting telesales calls looking for her business for a number of years. The calls kept coming despite being told the former customer had no intention of returning to Eircom.

Customer service operators apologised to her by email and told them they would be taken off their database, but that did not occur.

In April the commission received a complaint from a man who was getting calls that were “bordering on harassment” offering broadband despite the fact that it was not available in his area.

When the company pleaded guilty in November, Mr Delaney had said Eircom was most complained about firm for data breaches.

The company had a prior court cases data protection breaches including one in 2012 over the loss of laptops containing personal information on customers. It was then fined €3,000 in 2013 for breaking data regulations.