At a time when society in general is encouraging persons to conduct more and more business online residents of Ballingarry (Thurles) parish and community now find themselves unable to conduct even the most basic online transactions using Eircom broadband. Such is the worsening quality of the service being provided that a public meeting was held recently in the parish community hall. The meeting was instigated by councillor Imelda Goldsboro and chaired by local resident Declan O’Shea. Councillor Goldsboro has been inundated with complaints regarding Eircoms service and indeed their customer care policy such as it is.
This initial meeting was well attended by a broad section of the local community and included domestic users, local businesses, students and members of the local farming community. What was very evident as speaker after speaker spoke of their experiences during the past year was the utter frustration and indeed anger felt by all. Eircom customers are simply not getting the service they are paying for and many have now gone down the road of seeking refunds or credit on their bills. Farmers are unable to conduct their business with the Department of Agriculture as expected to. Shopkeepers recounted tales where their Lotto and eflow terminals breakdown as customers attempt payments. Residents spoke of their fears when doing online banking and having their internet connection fail before they complete their transaction or logout. Parents told of how they can no longer attempt a decent communication with family and friends abroad. Retired persons who enjoy internet research or online learning cannot now do so. The local secondary school has recently added a fine new building with all the modern technologies and “e” learning but students will find it next to impossible to submit projects or homework online from their homes.
Faults are being reported daily by many residents who are totally disgusted with the eircom responses to date. Faults section on one hand tells customers they have a “line” fault but line faults will then tell them they have a “broadband “fault. One resident who managed to get a technician to call was told by the technician that he, the technician felt he was being made a fool of having to call to customers when he knew there was no problem in their house. It was simply Eircom policy to try and appease the customer. It is now next to impossible to speak directly with eircom staff as all calls are routed through “call centers” whose function it is to simply pass on complaints. Some residents who threatened to cancel their direct debit payments due to the deplorable service were informed that they would incur reconnections fees subsequently. On another occasion an eircom employee actually suggested to one resident that they would be better off switching internet provider.
The eircom technical staff appears to be no longer available on the ground to assist customers who continue to pay their bills on time. There have been considerable staff reductions within the company during the past two years with large numbers of technicians and engineers leaving before normal retirement age in order to accept generous redundancy packages. The phone numbers affected are in the main those that are serviced by the Ballingarry village telecom exchange in the 052 area, those numbers beginning with 9154 etc . Months ago eircom stated that this exchange required a simple update for its existing “DSL Racks” and it would be done sooner rather than later. However the engineer tasked received an urgent call directing him to Kerry we were told and that was the end of that. We presume he is still lost in the Kerry mountains region unable to find his way back to Tipperary! Now we have been informed that there are no plans to update the exchange!
We hear daily of the new “next generation” broadband and/or high speed “efibre” broadband. The residents of Ballingarry area would settle and be very happy with a basic service that works. High speed is not essential for many users but a workable service is.
Over forty residents in attendance at the meeting have now signed a petition and a plan of action will be initiated shortly using all the existing avenues available including ComReg and the Minister for Communications. In the meantime residents are asked to continue to report their faults every time one occurs and eventually something must give. The fault phone number to call is 1901 and customers may also use the eircom technical fault line number 1890 260 260. Two email fault reporting addresses that can be used are “firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Please avail of these every single time you have a fault and do not be fobbed off with routine replies from eircom staff manning these call centres. The majority of the people you speak with are not in fact eircom staff at all but call centre employees used by eircom for this purpose.
Eircom also operate a “Customer Service Guarantee” which states “ If we do not meet certain target dates for fault clearance you may be entitled to a rebate”. Contact eircom on 1800 400 000 for this service! Eircom stress in their phone directories that “ It is important that we hear from you” and that complaints can be made by letter, fax and/or email. Letters may be addressed to, Eircom Escalated Customer Complaints, Floor 5, Telephone House, Marlborough Street, Dublin 1. Faxes sent to 1800 200 480. Let us avail of all of these avenues initially from here on and see what response is forthcoming. We have now set up a “ballingarryforbroadband” facebook page and urge residents to like this page and use it from now on as a forum to discuss these ongoing problems.
At the end of the day customers should not have to pay for a service that is no longer providing the very basic requirements for modern internet usage in 2014.