Wednesday 1st May 2019
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Vodafone New Zealand has been fined $350,000 for charging more than 29,000 customers after the end date of cancelled contracts with the country's biggest mobile carrier.
The telco was today sentenced in the Auckland District Court after pleading guilty to 14 Fair Trading Act charges brought by the Commerce Commission for making false representations in the invoices it sent to affected customers between January 2012 and December 2018.
Those customers overpaid about $285,000 for bills that included charges beyond the agreed date of termination. The company said it has applied credits to the accounts of all current and former customers and undertaken to reimburse them. Where the telco hasn't been able to find the customers, it's donated the equivalent amount to charity via its Vodafone New Zealand Foundation.
"Customers have the right to expect businesses to invoice them accurately and it is vital businesses take care to ensure their billing systems and processes are doing that,” Commerce Commission competition and consumer general manager Antonia Horrocks said in a statement.
"For a large proportion of the affected invoices in this case, Vodafone relied on staff to manually adjust them but did not take adequate steps to ensure that process was being consistently followed. As a result, tens of thousands of customers were left out of pocket," she said.
The commission said Judge Evangelos Thomas described the representations as careless and that a deterrent penalty was justified.
Vodafone chief executive Jason Paris apologised for the error, saying it resulted from a combination of unintentional system and human errors which have since been fixed. Customers were overcharged $9.70 on average.
"I want to reassure customers Vodafone has not profited in any way from these historical billing errors, and we have subsequently invested significant time and money into improving our systems and processes to prevent a recurrence," he said.
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