ComReg has put in place a regime to ensure that a basic set of telecommunications services are available to all consumers throughout the country. This is known as the principle of Universal Service.
A number of consumer protection measures have also been introduced which are designed to protect you when dealing with your service provider.
Universal Service Obligations (USO)
The concept of Universal Service is designed to ensure that every person can receive a basic set of high quality telecommunications services, no matter where they live, at an affordable price. Eircom is the current designated 'Universal Service Provider' (USP) and has a number of obligations regarding the provision of certain services.
What areEircom'sUniversal Service Obligations?
Eircom's obligations under the USO are listed below. Further details can be obtained on these issues from Eircom.
Provision of a Telephone Line
On receipt of a reasonable request, Eircom must provide telephone lines to every premise throughout the State and access to publicly available telephone services. Eircom has a dispute process to deal with any issues that arise in this context. See ComReg 05/70 for more details.
Provision of Public Payphones
Eircom must provide payphones throughout the State to meet the reasonable needs of users in terms of geographical coverage, accessibility and the quality of services. Payphones that are covered under the USP are those available on the street and in other public areas available to the public at all times.
In order to increase the level of transparency for users, Eircom must follow procedures set out in ComReg Information Notice (ComReg 06/14) in the case of the removal/relocation of public payphones. The process to be followed requires Eircom to post a notice on the public pay telephone to inform users of its intention to remove or relocate the public pay telephone. The notice must include information to allow users make comments regarding any removal/relocation and provide an escalation process in the event of disputes.
Provision of Directory Services
Eircom must make available a printed phone book/s to all users throughout the State and the phone book must be updated at least once a year. Every user has the right, through their line rental provider, to an entry, free of charge, in the telephone directory.
Provision of Services to Users with a Disability
Eircom must offer particular services to ensure that users with a disability have access to Universal Services (click here for more information on Universal Services). Eircom also published a Code of Practice governing the provision of such services, which is available on the following link: Code of Practice.
Mechanisms to allow consumers to control their expenditure
In order to assist users to control their telephony expenditure,Eircom is required to offer:
· a minimum level of itemised billing, free of charge;
· call barring facilities for outgoing calls to national, mobile and international numbers, with the barring of premium rate calls free of charge;
· the facility for the phased payment of connection fees, via direct debit; and
· a policy regarding the disconnection of telephone lines for non-payment of bills.
Affordability is currently maintained through a combination of a Price Cap mechanism, the “Low Usage Scheme”, the Department of Social Protection (DSP) Telephone Allowance, Eircom’s “social benefit scheme” and the provision of geographical averaged prices.
What is a price cap?
The existing Price Cap was imposed on Eircomfrom October 2007 and provides a safeguard on consumer’s line rental and connections fees. The Price Cap ensures that Eircomcannot increase the prices by more than the rate of inflation (CPI as published by the Central Statistics Office). The access services included in the price cap are PSTN and ISDN line rentals and connections.
What is the “Low Usage Scheme”?
The main aim of the 'Low Usage Scheme' is to limit any increases in the size of telephone bills for all customers who have a relatively low level of usage. The Eircomscheme works as follows: if a user spends on average less then €7.94, (incl. VAT) a month on calls alone, they can now pay an initial subscription fee of €24.81 (incl. VAT) per month. This will include line rental, local, national, fixed to mobile and international calls up to a value of €7.94 (incl. VAT). It should be noted that once a customer exceeds the €7.94 (incl. VAT) worth of free calls they will pay double on calls up to €17 (incl. VAT), after which they will revert to standard call rates. This scheme may be availed of in conjunction with the Eircom “social benefit scheme”.
See link to more details regarding the operation of the scheme: Eircom Low Usage Scheme
What is the DSP Telephone Allowance scheme?
The DSP Telephone Allowance is a payment towards your telephone bill which covers basic line rental/equipment (if applicable) charges. The value of the allowance is €22.58 (inc. VAT) per month if it is applied as a credit to your bill and is €22.60 (inc. VAT) if you avail of a cash telephone allowance per month. If you have a hearing or vision impairment, the Allowance covers the cost of renting a special telephone, subject to availability. The allowance can only be awarded if the telephone is registered in your name. See the following link to information on the DSP website regarding, amongst other things, qualifying criteria: Information re Telephone Allowance
The DSP Telephone Allowance scheme is not limited to Eircomcustomers. You should contact your service provider to find out if they are taking part in the Telephone Allowance scheme. See further link to more details regarding the operation of the Allowance: DSP Telephone Allowance
What is Eircom’s “social benefit package”?
Eircom’s “social benefit scheme” covers line rental, a monthly call allowance of up to €1.52 (inc. VAT) and €0.79(inc. VAT) towards Handset Rental. This scheme is available to Eircom customers who qualify under the Department of Social Protection for the Telephone Allowance. See link to full details: Eircom Social Benefit Scheme
What are Geographical averaged prices?
This obligation requires the USP to ensure that basic telephone services are available at an affordable price, irrespective of geographical