Warning over phone allowance reduction
on 03/01/2013 00:00:00
The controversial 58% reduction in the phone allowance was introduced in the budget to deliver annual savings of €61m.
The allowance which forms part of the Household Benefit Scheme overseen by the Department of Social Protection is universally applied to everyone over the age of 66.
Eircom announced yesterday that it was writing to 270,000 customers who are entitled to the phone allowance to alert them to the fact that the changes will be noticeable in bills issued from Feb 1.
The phone allowance covers the value of line rental, a small call allowance and in some cases a contribution towards handset rental.
Eircom said affected customers did not need to take any action as the change would automatically be applied to their account.
However, it has advised any concerned customers to contact their customer care team on 1800-661622.
Eircom said it didn't comment on the number of its customers experiencing arrears but a spokesperson said it was company policy that nobody entitled to the telephone allowance would have their phone cut off for difficulty in paying bills.
It claimed there was no noticeable increase in the level of arrears among its total customer base over the last year.
Eircom described the cut in the phone allowance as "regrettable" and said it was working with the industry regulator, ComReg, to ensure that vulnerable customers received assistance and access to affordable telecommunications. The company said it hoped to announce details of specific packages for such customers in the near future.
Some social welfare recipients entitled to the household benefits package which included the telephone allowance as well as free TV licences, will also experience changes to the electricity allowance which will deliver further savings of €20m for the Government in 2013.