You’ve got to hand it to Ire-com

As the co-owner of one of those telecomms providers saying their call charges are lower than eircom’s basic rate I’m amused at their latest advertisements. I’m sure you’ve heard them. The ones that say that there are lots of providers who provide a basic rate cheaper than eircom’s but most eircom customers aren’t paying a basic rate anyway or words to that effect. It’s a bit cheeky. Ask yourself the following none-too-subtle questions.

  • Is it reasonable to tell customers that your basic rates are substantially higher than the competition’s but still persist with offering those rates?
  • If you have a monopoly of residential and business customers does it make the previous situation less reasonable? Would this undermine your credibility when talking about customer satisfaction?
  • Would a reasonable consumer determine that they were being convinced to stay wiht the incumbent operator through tariff savings schemes while steep (punitive?) charges were still enforced for calls made outside the terms of the low-tariff plan?

Here’s the defintion of anti-competitive and monopolistic practices (which are outlawed by the EC). The reader can draw their own conclusions and I’ll draw mine!

“Anti-competitive business practices (including improper exploitation of customers or exclusion of competitors) in which a dominant firm may engage in order to maintain or increase its position on the market. Competition law prohibits such behaviour, as it damages true competition between firms, exploits consumers, and makes it unnecessary for the dominant undertaking to compete with other firms on the merits. Article 82 of the EC Treaty lists some examples of abuse, namely unfair pricing, restriction of production output and imposing discriminatory or unnecessary terms in dealings with trading partners.”

From reading the following very entertaining piece contrasting the US Sharman Act Section 2 versus the EC Treaty Article 82 it does appear that the behavior is fine from a US perspective but within the ECJ’s jurisdiction, perhaps more questionable, especially if unnecessary barriers are put in place to prevent the consumer from fairly moving to a new telecomms service provider. Generally if you try to get an Esat-BT a/c moved to a new house without an Eircom line, Esat will ask you to ask Eircom to install a line. Eircom will refuse unless you become an Eircom line-rental customer first. Is this reasonable? Under EU law, as there are arguably numerous other mechanisms for Eircom to charge for the line installation service (Esat or the consumer themselves) it would appear to be an anti-competitive practice. It constitutes behavior which makes the process of using telecommunications services from a provider other than the incumbent more difficult. Hence, it’s anti-competitive. That’s not what’s gotten my goat!
When we offer the FreeSpeech service to customers we have to get an original eircom bill from them in order to transfer the customer from Eircom to an outsourced MCI CPS service. A copy of the bill won’t do despite the fact that Eircom can easily check the validity of the bill and also the validity of the appended signature. It appears Eircom don’t trust us to look after the customer’s best interests which, if you think about it, is very funny indeed.