Vodafone NZ, Spark, 2degrees, MyRepublic warned over confusing consumers

Vodafone NZ, Spark, 2degrees, and MyRepublic have been warned over potential breaches of the Fair Trading Act including misleading consumers on pricing, speeds, availability, and other information.

Four of New Zealand's biggest telecommunications carriers have been warned by industry watchdog the Commerce Commission on confusing and misleading consumers, with Vodafone NZ, Spark, 2degrees, and MyRepublic all told to cease the behaviour.

According to the New Zealand Commerce Commission, Vodafone NZ was found to be making misleading representations in promoting its 12-month broadband bundles with "free" goods and services, when in reality consumers were required to pay additional fees or sign up for additional services in order to access these.

Vodafone was also advertising a monthly headline price that did not include these additional fees to receive the "free" goods and services, the regulator added.

The Commerce Commission also said Spark was found to be making representations about Vodafone's 2G network being "imminently" shuttered while marketing its own Skinny Mobile service, while 2degrees made misleading representations about the pricing of its unlimited broadband plan by not including the cost of the modem plus delivery.

Lastly, MyRepublic had promoted its 1Gbps service two months before it was available to order; represented that customers on its "Gamer" broadband service would not suffer from any lag or latency even though its customers did experience these; and incorrectly represented that the Fair Trading Act provision on cancellation under the uninvited direct sales provisions did not apply once MyRepublic had commenced the service.

As a result of these "likely" breaches of the Act, the Commerce Commission sent warning letters to the carriers after recently announcing that it would be focusing on retail telecommunications compliance as a priority in 2017-18.

"The complexity and range of goods and services offered by the industry means consumers can be easily confused about product offerings," Commissioner Anna Rawlings said.

"The telco sector continues to generate a high volume of consumer complaints, despite previous compliance and enforcement work by the commission."

As part of this focus on telcos, the Commerce Commission is also investigating incorrect billing, failure to identify mobile add-on subscriptions, erroneous calculation of broadband usage, unfair contracts, and misrepresentations of internet services and their availability.