Vodafone NZ, Commerce Commission both appeal fine

19 May 2022

Vodafone New Zealand and the Commerce Commission have both said they will appeal a NZD2.25 million (USD1.4 million) fine imposed on the telco for its historic marketing of ‘FibreX’ branded HFC fixed broadband services between 2016 and 2018. Vodafone was found guilty in April of conduct liable to mislead consumers into believing that FibreX was a fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) connection. Vodafone also pleaded guilty to charges relating to its online address checker, which suggested to consumers that FibreX was the only available broadband service at their address. Charges were brought under the Fair Trading Act and the telco faced potential fines of up to NZD16 million, with the Commission seeking a NZD5.8 million penalty.

Commerce Commission Chair Anna Rawlings said in a statement that the regulator will argue the fine did not appropriately reflect the seriousness of the offending, and the size and financial resources of Vodafone. The regulator will also argue that Vodafone’s conduct was wilful rather than grossly careless and allowed Vodafone to make significant commercial gains. ‘The fines imposed for this type of offending must be significant enough to deter Vodafone and other large businesses from engaging in this type of conduct in the future,’ she stressed.

‘We are very disappointed with the outcome and respectfully disagree with the court’s decisions,’ Vodafone NZ said in a statement. ‘Our appeal will set out our strong belief that there are several errors with the original conviction decision and that there are aspects of the FibreX judgment that simply misunderstand the services we sell and are not in the best interests of consumers or future competition’. Describing the HFC service offered in Wellington, Kapiti and Christchurch as a ‘well-performing, price-competitive product’, the telco noted the Commission’s latest broadband measurement report found HFC Max plans were able to support four simultaneous UHD Netflix streams, offering an equivalent experience to FTTH plans in this respect.