Pure Telecom fined €10,000 over breach of regulations
Posted on 3rd October 2019 at 22:17
Company pleads guilty in court over lack of transparency regarding charges and terms
A telecom company’s service contracts with 55,000 customers were not transparent about terms and charges, and breached communication regulations, a court has heard.
Irish phone and broadband company Pure Telecom has been ordered to pay €10,000 after pleading guilty to not clearly showing its prices and conditions in their contracts.
The company was prosecuted at Dublin District Court on Thursday following an investigation by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).
It faced 99 representative charges of failing to comply with requirements of the European Communities (Electronic Communications Networks and Services) (Universal Service and Users’ Rights) Regulations 2011.
The offence can result in fines of up to €5,000 per charge.
Judge John Brennan heard there were guilty pleas to 25 sample charges, and the company had rectified its error at some expense.
He noted the remaining charges could be taken into account. The regulations were there for consumer protection and the court took that seriously, he said.
He noted a lot of customers were using this service and most importantly there were vulnerable consumers, particularly people of mature years and people who have not studied contracts. They faced fees they should not have, he said.
He took into account mitigating factors such as the company’s co-operation with the investigation. It was not a case where it was “fleecing” consumers, he held.
He said he would strike out the case, sparing Pure Telecom a recorded conviction, if it donated €5,000 to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, and the same amount to Merchants Quay Ireland, the drug and homeless service.
The case was adjourned until December 12th next. He warned Pure Telecom that it was getting a chance “but there cannot be a repeat”.
Eoghan Cole BL, prosecuting, told the court the offences happened from July 31st, 2017, until the end of September last year.
The regulations required prices and tariffs to be provided to customers in a way that was “clear, comprehensible and easily accessible”.
Mr Cole acknowledged the defendant’s guilty plea was of considerable value because a trial would have been considerable in length and complexity.
The court heard that the phone company’s customers did not receive paper copies of their contracts but they were emailed out instead.
ComReg compliance analyst said all the summons before the court represented cases of non-compliance with the regulations.
The company had no prior convictions.
Pleading for leniency, Brian Gageby BL said the errors had been rectified. He asked the judge to note the early guilty plea, and that regulatory cases such as this can be tedious, technical and expensive to prosecute.
It had been taken seriously by the company. Its directors were in court and there had been full compliance with the investigation, he submitted.
Counsel said Pure Telecom had 55,000 customers and employed 65 people. It was an Irish company trying to compete with “big players”.
New contracts had to be sent out to all its customers, he said. It had also paid out a significant amount in refunds and complied with the agreement reached with ComReg.
He submitted that this represented the company’s good will toward the regulations as he pleaded with the court to consider sparing Pure Telecom a recorded conviction.
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