Vodafone cops Commerce Commission action over FibreX advertising

The Commission has laid 27 charges against Vodafone in the Auckland District Court

The Commerce Commission has accused Vodafone of misrepresenting its FibreX broadband service, which is delivered over a hybrid fibre coax network, as being delivered over the Ultra Fast Broadband fibre to the home network. Vodafone has refuted the accusations.

The Commission has laid 27 charges against Vodafone in the Auckland District Court under the Fair Trading Act alleging false and misleading conduct in relation Vodafone’s FibreX advertising in the three regions where FibreX is offered — Wellington, Christchurch and Kapiti — between 26 October 2016 and 28 March 2018.

The Commission alleges that the name itself is misleading and that advertising of FibreX on billboards, radio, in-store, online and in direct-marketing misled consumers into thinking that FibreX was a full fibre-optic broadband service.

The Commission also alleges that Vodafone’s website misled consumers about the options of broadband services (including full fibre-optic broadband) available at their addresses.

Vodafone said it disagreed with the charges and welcomed the opportunity to defend the naming and marketing of FibreX and to reinforce the benefits of this service.

The company said its FibreX advertising had already been cleared by the Advertising Standards Authority. “In 2017, the Advertising Standards Authority looked into our advertising of FibreX and ruled it was not misleading,” it said.

“They noted that consumers are more interested in the speed than the technology behind their Internet service, and that FibreX performs to a comparable standard to other fibre access technologies. … For consumers wanting broadband services at the highest available speeds, FibreX represents an extremely competitive option. We are proud of being able to offer this over our own network and this is why we will stand up to the charges.”

Furthermore, Vodafone said customers could get connected to FibreX faster than to a UFB service.

“The single biggest pain point our customers are facing is fibre installation delays by local fibre companies, and FibreX offers an alternative for customers who want to avoid these delays while enjoying the benefits of ultra-fast broadband.”

Vodafone has a long track record of falling foul of the Fair Trading Act, most spectacularly in September 2012 when it was fined close to $1.5 million on 21 charges brought by the Commerce Commission over marketing campaigns that breached the Fair Trading Act.

In September 2016 Vodafone was fined $165,000 for providing misleading information to its customers on its Red Essentials mobile phone plan, and overcharging them a total NZ$92,000, although most by less than $1.

In November 2011 Vodafone was fined $81,900 in the Auckland District Court after being found guilty of breaching the Fair Trading Act for its $1 a day mobile broadband offering in 2008, following a Commerce Commission action.

In August 2011 Vodafone was fined over $400,000 after pleading guilty to breaching the Fair Trading Act in relation to its Vodafone Live! mobile phone Internet service.

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