Spark fined $675,000

In April, Spark was fined $675,000 after pleading guilty to nine charges under the Fair Trading Act.

Eight of the charges related to misrepresentations Spark made in customer invoices. Despite their terms and conditions saying charges would stop 30 days after customers gave notice to terminate their contracts, final bills sent to nearly 72,000 customers included charges for services beyond the 30 day termination period.

Commissioner Anna Rawlings said, “Customers rely on companies to invoice them accurately. Overcharging even a small amount to individual customers can result in businesses receiving large sums of money that they are not entitled to.”

The other charge related to promotional letters Spark sent to prospective customers, offering a $100 account credit if they joined Spark and subscribed to a particular broadband plan. The letters gave the impression that new customers could sign up online to receive the credit, when they could not. In fact, the credit would only be paid if customers telephoned Spark to sign up for the plan.

In sentencing Judge Russell Collins said he accepted the conduct regarding the $100 credit was, “a material omission, and the offending involved serious misrepresentation.”

Vodafone fined $350,000

In May, Vodafone was fined $350,000 after pleading guilty to 14 charges relating to making false representations in invoices it sent to customers.

Despite Vodafone’s contractual terms and conditions stating it would stop charging customers either 30 days after they gave notice to terminate their contracts or on an agreed date, Vodafone sent invoices to more than 29,000 customers that included charges beyond the agreed date of termination. As a result, customers across three of Vodafone’s billing systems overpaid around $285,000.

In sentencing Judge Thomas described Vodafone’s representations as highly careless, saying a deterrent penalty was justified as the market needs to have faith in the conduct of its major players.

“Vodafone breached the trust that all consumers should be entitled to place in suppliers’ representations,” Judge Thomas said.