Mobile phone network GoMo has been fined €5,000 after an unprecedented surge in business led to delays in connecting new customers.

The telecom firm, launched by Meteor Mobile and owned by Eir, which had also paid €10,000 in prosecution costs, was summonsed to Dublin District Court.

It followed an investigation by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) into customer complaints about the new network soon after it launched in October 2019.

It had offered a special deal of €9.99 a month for unlimited calls, texts and data for life to the first 100,000 subscribers.

The company pleaded guilty to five sample offences under the European Communities (Electronic Communications Networks and Services) (Universal Service and Users' Rights) Regulations 2011.

Prosecution counsel Shelley Horan told Judge Anthony Halpin the regulations stated movement to a new network must be done within the shortest possible period of time.

An existing telephone number should be kept and moved, a procedure termed as "porting", to the new network within a day. There must not be a loss of service exceeding more than one working day.

ComReg compliance analyst Una Milton said the new network’s offer to the first 100,000 customers was heavily advertised.

Within two months, ComReg had received 700 contacts from its customers in relation to various issues, especially porting of telephone numbers to the GoMo network.

Some reported having partial service, no service or that they had been given other customers’ numbers and were getting their texts and calls.

There was no number to call to make a complaint which could only be done online.

The court heard the porting error was caused by a manual process of posting out SIM cards or in linking them to the right accounts.

Temporary numbers were given to the new customers until their existing numbers were ported to GoMo on a set date.

The court heard one woman signed up on 22 October 2019 and already had her own number used by her family and employer to contact her.

It was supposed to port to her GoMo account seven days later but was given to another customer who was able to find out her identity and let her know.

It was not fixed until 9 December 2019.

The court heard another woman had no service for four days and when the SIM arrived it was for a different number.

She could not be contacted by her elderly mother and the problem was not corrected for four weeks.

A minor reported to ComReg that he became frustrated when the number he had been given did not match his account.

It took a month for his number to be ported.

The fourth complainant reported a loss of service and the fifth found someone else had been allocated her number.

The compliance analyst said Meteor Mobile, which was owned by Eir, had two prior convictions: in 2013 for a data protection offence and in 2015 in another case brought by ComReg for removing massive discounts from customers' phone contracts.

Defence solicitor Niall Buckley told the court that seven complaints related to porting and 15 were for sending out the wrong SIM cards.

The ComReg witness agreed with him that human error had been found to be the cause.

Mr Buckley said Meteor Mobile, trading as GoMo had paid €10,000 toward prosecution costs. The problem had been cause by a huge surge in interest in the €9.99 offer which was unprecedented in terms of product promotion.

The firm, which has gone on to have 250,000 users on the GoMo network, has put measures in place to correct the issue, he submitted in a plea for leniency.

The solicitor said the telecom firm was willing to pay a substantial sum to charity, however, Judge Halpin refused. He noted the firm’s guilty plea and demonstration of genuine remorse, but he remarked that sensitive details could have been sent to strangers and he noted evidence of a lack of engagement with customers which he said was "less than adequate".

He recorded a conviction and imposed fines totalling €5,000.