Commerce Commission v Vodafone New Zealand Ltd [2019] NZDC 15705

Published 25 February 2020

Sentencing — making a false or misleading representation — communication services — customer billing — termination of contract — billing beyond termination — no guiding tariff case — Commerce Commission v L D Nathan [1990] 2 NZLR 160 — Commerce Commission v Spark New Zealand Trading Ltd [2019] NZDC 7801. The defendant appeared for sentencing on 14 charges of making a false or misleading claim. It was a telecommunications company that had inadvertently continued to bill some of its former customers beyond their contract termination periods. The defendant's billing error resulted in it overcharging 29,425 customers to the amount of $285,359.37. Some of the defendant's staff were aware of the billing system shortcomings that gave rise to the offending. The Court observed that the offending involved material departures from the truth and undermined consumers' faith in the market. The defendant's culpability was increased by its knowledge of the shortcomings of its billing system. The Court set a start point for fine of $450,000, and uplifted this by $70,000 for the defendant's previous relevant convictions. With discounts for cooperation with the investigation, attempts to refund the customers and charitable donations, and guilty plea, the final fine was $350,000. Judgment Date: 1 May 2019.