Eircom was once known as Ireland’s “Largest telecommunications” supplier but faced many struggles over recent years before their big rebrand. They were originally the primary provider of phone services in Ireland but rebranded to ‘Eir’ after being fined on multiple occasions and receiving backlash for their customer service. They now provide a range of phone and broadband bundles under their new brand.
It was in 2012 that claimed it planned to bring fibre-based services to 1m homes and businesses. However, the company had been haemorrhaging market share at this time, while companies like UPC reported 11% growth and more sign-ups than ever.
It went into default to nobody’s surprise, and the majority of the company’s lenders voted to file for examinership. A company representative went to the High Court to formally seek protection from the company’s creditors to allow it to restructure the €3.8bn debt.
This was a truly humiliating milestone in the history of the country’s largest telecoms company, once State-owned and valued at about €8.4 billion at the time of its privatisation in 1999. It was insolvent and relied on the goodwill of its 100-plus lenders to stay up and running.
In 2013, barely recovering from their recent losses, Eircom launched a new fibre broadband network. It said the fibre service would provide speeds 6 to 10 times faster than current broadband speeds. Qualifying broadband customers were able to upgrade for free to eFibre and the deals included a free modem, free installation and no connection charge. Eircom’s products at this time started at €40 and €24.79 for businesses.
However, It also paid the communications regulator ComReg a penalty of €275,000 this year for following a breach of its non-discrimination obligations to repair both retail and wholesale faults equally. ComReg found that, on average, was repairing a higher percentage of faults to its own retail arm’s customers compared to faults of other operators’ customers, and were not repairing faults within the agreed timeframe.
In 2014, Eircom released a campaign with their ‘lowest-priced bundles ever’. New customers were able to take advantage of their unlimited fibre-powered broadband, TV and phone packages for just €24 per month for 6 months. After the discount period, prices went up to €48 - €63 depending on the package.
One woman was left disgruntled after finding what she thought was a better deal with Vodafone, and then being met with a bill for €106.93 for ‘early cease charges’. After calling Eircom to explain the situation, she was told it had nothing to do with them and it was Vodafone’s job to inform her of the charges. As she was never informed of the charges Vodafone had promised to reimburse her of the bill, but the refund never materialized after many calls. What struck the woman was the poor customer service from both phone companies.
It was around this time Sky decided to go head to head with company rivals, for high-speed broadband services. Their package promised to be one of the cheapest fibre packages in the country - at least to begin with. Sky promoted an introductory offer of unlimited broadband with speeds of up to 100Mb/s for €30 a month for the first half-year, then €50 per month after that. Sky had only 6.6% of all Irish broadband subscribers in June of 2014, compared to 37.2%. Despite Eircom having the best reach in Ireland, they began to struggle to sign up as many fibre customers as rival companies, including UPC.
After promising cheaper packages in 2014, Sky increased their own prices in 2015. The company added €12 to the annual cost of its most basic TV package, while its unlimited fibre broadband offering cost €50 a month. This could have been Eircom’s chance to take back their reputation, but they too announced that their monthly charges would increase by €2-€8 a month, adding up to €96 a year to customers’ annual bills.
Many people turned to providers such as Vodafone, who were offering packages saving customers in the range of €55 per month. Even those who decided to give it a second chance to improve their deal were left disappointed, as the company were unable (or unwilling) to match prices laid out by other providers. Many customers reported feeling duped by Eircom, who would describe seemingly better deals, only to realize later on that the deals were the same, or even worse. In worst cases, some customers were not provided with the deal they were promised at all, with discounts not applied and packages chopped and changed without their notice.
Eircom took a further financial hit in 2015 as they paid out refunds of €700,000 in total to almost 12,000 customers for landline outages that lasted over 10 days during the first three months of 2014. The operator also agreed to compensate those who suffered landline outages in the last three months of 2014. They agreed to the payout after a legal settlement with the telecoms regulator, Comreg. The settlement involved refunds of €600,000 to residential customers and €100,000 to businesses which found themselves without landline services for more than a week-and-a-half, between the end of December 2013 and April 30 of 2014, a period when the country was battered by high winds and storms.
However, it was not asked to issue a refund for broadband-related outages during the same period, as these do not fall under telecoms 'universal service' rules.
All of these issues combined prompted the rebrand of Eircom to Eir in a €16 million project. This was labelled Ireland’s largest rebrand in 20 years, with the company dropping their ‘com’ and using new colourways and other branding elements to create a new look and feel.