IrelandOffline welcomes news of regulator’s “fine”

IrelandOffline welcomes news of regulator’s “fine”

Consumer lobby group IrelandOffline today welcomed the news that the communications regulator, ComReg, has opted to “fine” mobile operator Three Ireland (H3GI) for over-stating their subscriber numbers for the last number of years. IrelandOffline understands that the prepaid subscription heading could have been overstated by as much as 150,000. We believe that whilst ComReg have always had the power to fine regulated companies, they have often complained of not having enough power to do so effectively. The much vaunted ‘fine’ of a mere €1,500 shows how ineffective ComReg’s powers are. IrelandOffline accepts that ComReg need better legislative backing to issue stiffer fines but welcome the first ever use of their existing ability to at least threaten a prosecution.

All this actually means that if Three pay €1,500 to Comreg within 21 days then Comreg will not proceed any further. It is therefore not a REAL fine but an offer of a right to purchase an Indemnity From Prosecution.(2) This will not act as an effective future deterrent against any licenced operator, no matter how small. Given their turnover and size anything less than €150,000 would not even be noticed. It amounts to an invitation to all large operators to mislead and obfuscate in future and will result in equally distorted mis-information being peddled as official statistics and that the price of getting caught is now set at €1,500. Comreg could possibly have fined up to 10% of turnover however they chose not to exercise that option.

The subscriber numbers being over-stated include Three’s midband [1] subscribers; those who subscribe to Three “Broadband” services and Three Prepaid Voice customers.

These numbers are included in ComReg’s reporting of Irish broadband subscriptions given that 3G technology is deemed insufficient to deliver reliable broadband and, thus, excluded from broadband subscriber figures right across the EU and OECD.

[1] Midband is the industry term used for Internet access services that sit between old modem dialup (28-56Kbps) technology and reliable broadband services (defined by many as at least 2Mb always-on). Most nations in the EU and OECD group consider 3G mobile Internet to be within the midband category because of the technology’s limitations (such as poor speeds, and inability to guarantee a reliable service).

(2) The section 44 Indemnification From Prosecution Clause.

“Section 44.—(1) If the Commission believes on reasonable grounds that a person has committed a summary offence under this Act or under a related enactment, the Commission may give to the person (or, if the person believed to have committed the offence is a body corporate, to an officer of the body) a notice stating that—
(a) the person is alleged to have committed the offence, and
(b) if, within 21 days from the date on which the notice was given, the person, as far as is practicable, remedies to the satisfaction of the Commission the matter giving rise to the offence and pays to the Commission €1,500, accompanied by the notice, the person or body will not be prosecuted for the offence.”

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