This week, Telecom New Zealand has been hauled over the
coals . In a settlement with the New Zealand government's Commerce
Commission, the telco
agreed to repay NZ$9.5 million to more than 130,000
also promised to tighten its administration as the commission
notes "increasing concern" at Telecom's many similar breaches.
Consumer groups have called for stiffer penalties, The Telecom
Users Association of NZ (TUANZ) is unhappy, as is the government.
"Telecom has been the subject of at least eight Fair Trading Act
convictions, settlements and warnings since 2003", noted
Wellington's Dominion Post newspaper.
Such serial offending
should justify tough action, even if offences are blamed on
acts committed by former management several years ago.
Either way, it all adds to the poor reputation Telecom NZ has
with many consumers, something that could cost it more in lost
custom than any government fine. The latest breach led many tv
bulletins and vox pops in the street showed little public faith in
But Vodafone New Zealand cannot laugh either. It too
has attracted the attention of the Commerce Commission, with
charges relating to the Fair Trading Act being laid against it in
Apparently, "cut throat competition is to blame" for much
says the Commerce Commission, as telcos push the act to the
limit. New technologies and tech savvy consumers are other
Now, Australia's telco market seems more competitive than New
Zealand's phones, so is the ComCom right about competition? It
could well be, as Telstra
also seems a serial offender, most notably with claims
concerning Next G. False claims from Telstra has led to
a campaign being formed to get the giant to 'tell the
Telstra, however, is not alone, with the ACCC
threatening telcos last March, before securing a binding
agreement over misleading advertising
Perhaps it is too soon to tell whether Australia's agreement has
worked, and whether New Zealand needs a similar arrangement,
particularly as Telstra also seems in particular trouble over
access and wholesale issues.
Now, I can understand how competition might be a factor in
misleading claims, but it does seem interesting that former
state-owned giants appear to be the worst offenders. Do they carry
the arrogant monopolist attitudes of the days when they were
nationalised and cared little for the consumer?
Or are the telcos so untrustworthy that government should own
them again. But if they were, could government be trusted to run
and investigate them properly?