The number could be on the rise for the state’s printed phone books, as the current 2019/2020 phone book may be the latest edition of all time.
ComReg, the telecommunications regulator, has indicated that it is in favor of removing the obligation for Eir to make a printed version of the directory available to fixed-line subscribers in the future.
Less than 2,400 copies of the latest telephone directory have been ordered by members of the public since the regulator’s decision last year that a free printed local directory would no longer be provided to every subscriber.
ComReg revealed that Eir received only 2,399 phone book requests this year, which ultimately resulted in 2,354 copies.
The vast majority of people who requested a directory picked it up for free at an Eir store of their choice, with just 298 people paying the € 4.70 fee to have it delivered to their doorstep.
Eir calculated that it would cost € 39.02 to print each copy.
While Eir was authorized to charge a distribution fee for the delivery of the directory, ComReg decided that it could not charge subscribers for the cost of printing and packaging the telephone directories.
ComReg said it considers the number of requests for the directory to be “very low”.
Consumers were told earlier this year that the 2019/2020 edition of the phone book would only be delivered if they specifically requested a copy.
Eir had sought to change policy on the grounds that providing a printed directory had become unprofitable due to declining advertising revenues and rising costs.
The company called the phone book “obsolete and unnecessary”.
Although this figure is down from 1.4 million euros in 2014, Eir estimated the total cost of providing the 2019/2020 edition at 109,256 euros.
Where several million copies of directories were printed each year, ComReg said only 2,800 copies of the latest edition were printed, of which 890 were for Dublin region 01.
A survey of people who ordered a copy of the 2019/2020 directory found that the vast majority (83%) were over 65, while 78% had never used an online directory.
One third did not have Internet access at home.
When asked about the possibility that a printed phone book will no longer be available in the future, just over a third said they would find this difficult, while 21% said they would use an online directory. and 19% that they would continue to use the “old” 2019/2020 directory.
Force of habit
ComReg said the results showed that a significant portion of people who ordered a phone book continued to use it primarily for convenience and habit.
He said there might also be a lack of awareness among these users about alternative services such as free online directories and directory inquiry services.
ComReg has launched a public consultation on whether to stop requiring the provision of printed telephone directories.
The regulator said it believes there is no longer a need to impose such an obligation on Eir as a universal service provider.
“ComReg is of the preliminary view that there are now enough affordable and accessible alternatives for finding phone numbers that could appropriately serve all age profiles and all parts of the state,” said the regulator.
ComReg said the online directory had the advantage of being more accessible when people were “on the go”, as well as being free and updated more regularly than the printed version of the telephone directory.
The regulator noted that the demand for directory inquiry services was also declining, with Eir reporting that revenues from its operator services had fallen by 33% to € 5 million as of June 30, 2019, due to reduced rates. call volumes to its 11811 directory inquiry service.
He pointed out that a survey he commissioned last year found the internet to be the most popular source for finding personal and business phone numbers, at 56% and 83% respectively.
The survey also highlighted how 83 percent of members of the public said they would not be willing to pay for a printed phone book.
Eight of the 28 EU Member States currently only provide electronic directories.