The CEO of Eir has apologised for "below-par service" during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Speaking on RTÉ's Prime Time, Carolan Lennon said the company was not making excuses for the long delays experienced by customers but explained that there had been difficulties retaining customer service staff.

Her comments followed a Prime Time report that found that one couple from Co Tipperary spent seven weeks without phone or broadband.

Geraldine and Gerry Shanahan are among hundreds of Eir customers who have experienced serious issues around connectivity and billing this year. The watchdog that oversees the communications sector, ComReg, has condemned the issues as "completely unacceptable".

"We have never had fantastic care in Eir and in 2018 we made a decision to bring care back in-house," Ms Lennon explained. "It was a bigger challenge than we thought," she said.

Call centres in Cork, Limerick and Sligo struggled to retain staff and 80 employees left the company this year.

"It’s very difficult to be at home in a bedroom listening to angry customers all day," the CEO told the programme.

Read more: Eir customers 'left out in the cold' as complaints surge

Eir said it couldn’t replace staff between April and July because of hiring and training restrictions and that 120 new employees had now been recruited.

Ms Lennon said 1,000 staff had worked through the pandemic and fixed 200,000 faults. 

The company says the average waiting time to get through to its customer care line is six minutes. However, asked about a 40-minute wait experienced by Prime Time, Ms Lennon explained that the service is busier on certain days.

"We get more calls on a Monday for some reason," she explained. 

"We have sub-par [customer] care. We will get it fixed."

According to ComReg, official complaints about Eir jumped from 383 in the first quarter of 2020 to more than 1,000 complaints between July and September.

"The problems with Eir were so deep and so problematic that customers were really left out in the cold, and that is very unacceptable," Roubert Mourik, ComReg's Commissioner, told Prime Time.