Phone contracts

Introduction

Many companies in Ireland offer telephone services for both fixed line and mobile. Each of the telephone service providers offers different packages to consumers. Before entering into a telephone contract, think carefully about your needs and compare prices and plans.

ComReg's price comparison tool allows you to compare mobile phone charges across all operators. It helps you to select the best mobile phone package for you, based on your individual usage.

What is a fixed line contract?

Fixed line is commonly known as your landline or home telephone. A fixed line means that your telephone (or the stand for a cordless telephone) is not wire free but is physically connected to a point on a wall in your home. Many providers now offer fixed line services as part of a package (also known as a ‘bundle’) along with home internet, and sometimes TV.

What are mobile network providers?

Mobile network providers offer a range of plans (with or without a new phone) that includes a certain amount of calls to other mobiles or landlines, text messages and data (this allows you to use internet while not connected to WIFI).

Mobile phone contracts

There are 2 main plans that mobile phone providers offer:

Prepay: This is a pay-as-you-go option where you buy credit from various outlets such as shops, bank machines and online and top up your phone when you need to. Some providers offer prepay options that include calls, texts and data. You don’t need to sign to a contract and are free to switch networks at any time.

Bill pay: This means that you get a monthly bill for the services you have used in the previous month and will pay a set price. The duration of the contract will usually be either month-to-month or 12 to 24 months. If you go above your allowance of calls, texts and data you will have to pay extra. When you enter into a bill pay contract, your contract is with the mobile network provider.

Bill pay plans usually give you the option to either buy a phone outright or buy it (either free or at a significantly lower price) as part of a bundle. There is also the option of a SIM-only plan where you don’t need a new phone and simply sign up to a monthly bill pay contract for calls, texts and data.

What’s included in my plan?

This depends on the plan and provider but generally your plan includes:

  • A certain amount of free national calls
  • A certain amount of calls to particular networks
  • An allowance for SMS (text message)
  • An allowance for data usage (usually measured in gigabytes or GB)

What is roaming?

Roaming is using your mobile phone while abroad. In the past, service providers could charge roaming fees on top of your regular mobile phone bill.

EU regulations in effect since June 2017 mean that mobile phone customers are charged the same price for calls, texts and data when travelling in the European Economic Area (EEA), which include all European Union countries plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. You should be aware that you may still be charged roaming rates for international travel outside the EEA.

ComReg advises you to check with your service provider to confirm your data allowance before travelling.

ComReg has more information about mobile phone roaming and Your Europe has more information about using your mobile phone in the EU.

Impact of Brexit on roaming

From 1 January 2021, you are no longer entitled to the same roaming rates under EU law when travelling to the UK. You should contact your provider to check the up-to-date prices that apply and what mobile allowances apply when travelling in the UK.

ComReg has more information about the impact of Brexit on mobile roaming.

What information should I get when I sign up to a contract?

Providers of fixed or mobile services must give you the following information in your contract:

  • The name and address of the service provider
  • Details of the service to be provided, the quality levels and the waiting periods for first-time connections
  • Details of the pricing and charges (tariffs)
  • Maintenance service available and if any charges apply
  • The duration of the contract and how to renew or cancel it
  • Your right to compensation or refund if service quality levels are not met
  • Details of the complaint handling procedure

These consumer rights are set out in the European Communities (Electronic Communications Networks and Services) (Universal Service and Users' Rights) Regulations 2011.

When you sign up to a new contract, you can only be bound to the contract for an initial minimum period of 24 months (2 years) or less. You can keep your existing landline or mobile phone number when switching to a new provider (known as ‘porting’ or ‘number portability’). Once the contract has been agreed, the number should be activated within a few hours.

Can I cancel my phone contract?

You should check the terms and conditions of your contract to find out what your cancellation rights are. You may have to pay a fee to cancel a contract.

Your legal right to cancel the contract for free depends on whether you signed up over the phone, in person, or online.

If you signed up over the phone or online

You can cancel the contract if you signed up less than 14 days ago over the phone or online. This is called a ‘cooling-off’ period. If you have already used the service (for example, you made calls on a phone), you are likely to be charged for what you have used. If you are waiting for a good such as a mobile phone to be delivered, the cooling off period starts the day you receive it. This is to allow you time to check if the phone is what you paid for.

If you cancel outside of the cooling off period, you may be charged a penalty fee or have to pay off the rest of your contract. Check the terms and conditions of your contract.

If you signed up in person

You don’t have the legal right to a 14-day cooling-off period if you signed up in person, for example you met a salesperson and signed the contract in the shop premises.

Any costs and charges for cancelling your contract should be made clear in your contract and at the point of sale.

Switching providers

Before switching providers, you should check your previous bills to review how many minutes and texts you use and how much data you will need.

When comparing providers and plans, you should think about:

  • Discount schemes
  • Minimum contract period
  • Penalties for ending the contract early
  • Charges and fees (can include connection charges, monthly rental fees, call costs, disconnection and reconnection charges)
  • Price options
  • Number portability

For mobile contracts, also think about:

  • Network coverage
  • Roaming for travel abroad

ComReg's price comparison tool allows you to compare mobile phone charges across all operators. It helps you to select the optimum mobile phone package, based on your individual usage.

Before you switch, you should contact your existing provider to check if any cancellation period or penalties apply. You will probably need your Universal Account Number (UAN) to switch. This is usually displayed on your bill, but if you can’t find it you should ask your existing provider.

Signing up

Once you have compared providers and decided on a plan to suit your needs, you can sign up to the contract by:

  • Giving your consent over the phone and having that conservation recorded
  • Signing a customer authorisation form
  • Filling in an online customer authorisation form

Methods of billing

You can receive your bills electronically (for example, email) or through the provider’s website. If you are not able to access bills in an electronic format because of limited access to the internet or other issues, the provider must give you a paper bill free of charge. You must be told when the bill is available online (for example, by sending you a text message).

When you switch to a new provider, your first bill may be higher than expected. This is because you are paying from the date your service was connected as well as the price plan for the month ahead. You may receive a single bill for a bundle (home phone, broadband and TV) but if you make calls, texts or data outside your allocated allowance, you will be charged at a much higher rate.

ComReg has more information about home phone and mobile phone.

Calling non-geographic numbers (such as 1800 numbers)

A non-geographic number (NGN) is a type of telephone number that is not linked to a specific geographic region or ‘area code’. An NGN is any phone number beginning with 1800, 1850, 1890, 0818 or 076.

NGNs are used by many businesses and charities, as well as public services and banking services.

Calls to 1800 numbers from landlines and mobiles are free. Calls to other NGNs cost the same as calling a landline number.

If your bundle includes landline calls, then calls to NGNs are included in the bundle.

Changes to NGNs from 31 December 2021

From 31 December 2021, the number of NGNs will reduce from 5 to 2. From this date, the only NGNs will be:

  • 1800
  • 0818

Organisations that use 1850, 1890, and 076 numbers are now changing to either 1800, 0818, or geographic numbers (geographic numbers are local numbers with an area code, for example 01).

Why are the changes happening?

Many people avoid calling 1850, 1890 and 076 numbers because they think they are confusing and expensive. ComReg is reducing the number of NGNs to simplify NGNs for consumers.

From 31 December 2021, there will be just 2 NGNs – 1800 (Freephone) and 0818 (Standard rate). This makes call costs easier to understand.

What happens if I call an expiring NGN?

You can continue to call 1850, 1890 and 076 numbers until 31 December 2021. However, from 31 December 2021, these numbers will be withdrawn from service and you will not be able to use them.

You may hear an audio message telling you the organisation’s new phone number. If not, you can check their website for contact details.

Will calls to NGNs be more expensive from 31 December 2021?

Calls to 1800 numbers will still be free from 31 December 2021.

Calls to 0818 numbers will continue to cost the same as calls to landline numbers.

You can read more about changes to non-geographic numbers on the ComReg website or watch this video about the changes.

Other consumer rights around phone contracts

General consumer rights

In addition to specific laws covering phone contracts, you also have the following general consumer rights:

  • Contract terms must be in clear, plain and understandable language and must not put you at an unfair disadvantage. Find out more about unfair contract terms.
  • Providers are not allowed to use misleading or aggressive commercial practices that are likely to affect your decision to buy. Find out more about unfair commercial practices.
  • If you receive a good (for example, a mobile phone) as part of the contract and it becomes faulty, you can return it to the seller (the mobile phone service provider or retailer) and request a repair, replacement or refund.

Non-geographic numbers (NGNs)

From 1 December 2019, calls to 1850, 1890, 0818, or 076 NGNs cost no more than calling a landline number and are included in your bundle of calls, if your bundle includes landline calls.

Calls to 1800 numbers from both landline and mobile are free. From 1 January 2022, the number of NGNs will be reduced to just 2 (1800 and 0818).

ComReg has more information about changes to non-geographic numbers.

I am having problems with my phone

Complaint about the service

If you have a problem with the service (for example, there are network coverage issues or you wish to dispute a charge on your bill) or the contract, you should first contact your service provider to try sort out the issue.

The consumer information section of comreg.ie has advice on the following topics:

If you cannot sort out the problem informally, you can put your complaint in writing to the phone service provider.

If you are not satisfied with the response from the provider, you can then contact ComReg for more advice and help.

You can talk to a member of ComReg’s customer care team about your query by:

  • Text – send a text with the word COMREG to 51500 (standard SMS rates apply) to receive a call back from the customer care team
  • Live web chat
  • Online form
  • Phone on 01 8049668
  • Irish sign language through the Consumer Line at consumerline@comreg.ie or SLIS at bookings@slis.ie and an appointment will be arranged

ComReg cannot act on your complaint until you have raised it with your service provider and their complaint handling process is completed.

Complaint about faulty phone

If the complaint relates to the device itself, for example the mobile phone is faulty, then you should contact the seller (mobile service provider or a retailer). If the phone fails to meet a statutory quality standard, you have the right to ask for a repair, replacement or refund.

If you cannot sort out the problem informally, you can put your complaint in writing to the seller.

If you are not happy with the response you get, you can contact the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) for more advice about your consumer rights.

Find out more about how to complain about phone, TV and internet.

Further information

ComReg has detailed information on a range of topics about home and mobile phone contracts.

The CCPC has more advice about mobile phones contracts.

You can find information about fixed line telephone services and your EU rights at Your Europe.

Commission for Communications Regulation

One Dockland Central
1 Guild Street
North Dock
Dublin 1
D01 E4XO
Ireland

Tel: (01) 804 9668
Fax: (01) 804 9680

Competition and Consumer Protection Commission

Bloom House
Railway Street
Dublin 1
D01 C576

Opening Hours: - Lines open Monday - Friday 9am - 6pm
Tel: (01) 402 5555 or 402 5500
Locall: 1890 432 432
Page edited: 17 September 2021