A breach of the Fair Trading Act has cost Vodafone $400,000, despite the telco’s early guilty plea.
Judge Roderick Joyce imposed the fine of $402,375 plus court costs this morning, after hearing the case last month. The complainants, the Commerce Commission, had sought a fine of $500,000.
The complaint related to breaches which occurred over 14 months in 2007 and 2008.
Vodafone advertised its Vodafone Live mobile internet service on its website with phrases such as ‘completely free’ and ‘you won’t be charged’. Customers were told they would be warned if they were about to leave sites that were covered under the Vodafone Live deal.
However, due to differences in the operating systems on phones sold by Vodafone this did not always happen, and in some instances the Vodafone Live banner would continue to display.
This led to customers being charged without their knowledge, and to their considerable distress.
Commerce Commission lawyer Nick Flanagan said last month Vodafone was initially dismissive of complaints about the error, and failed to rectify the situation quickly despite being put on notice by the Commerce Commission.
In contrast, Vodafone lawyer Bruce Gray QC said Vodafone did not set out to mislead customers, and pleaded guilty to the breaches at the first opportunity.