Vodafone has pleaded guilty to nine charges brought by the Commerce Commission over its "FibreX" service, but will contest a further 18 related to allegedly misleading marketing.
The telco appeared in the Auckland District Court this morning and pleaded guilty to charges which allege that Vodafone's website misled consumers about the options of broadband services available at their addresses.
The remaining charges relating to the advertising of Vodafone's Fibre X broadband service are still before the court.
The guts of the Vodafone's position is that it will now make it more clear on its website that people who live in FibreX areas also have the choice of UFB fibre.
But it will stick with the FibreX name.
On June 15, the Commerce Commission brought 29 charges under the Fair Trading Act, centring on its allegation that "FibreX" is a misleading name.
The commission alleges that by naming its broadband service "FibreX", Vodafone misled consumers into thinking that FibreX was a full fibre-optic broadband service, like those services delivered over the government-subsidised Ultra-Fast Broadband or network, "when it is not."
The "FibreX" network uses a mix of fibre and copper cabling.
It began life in the 1990s as Saturn Cable. It was bought by TelstraClear, then became part of Vodafone after its purchase of TelstraClear.
Vodafone says it has spent millions on upgrading the electronics on the FibreX network to give it speed comparable to a full-fibre network.
It is better for Vodafone in business terms if a Wellington or Christchurch customer chooses a FibreX plan, because it owns the whole network. For a UFB connection, Vodafone has to give roughly half the money from a monthly plan to UFB network operator Chorus (in the capital) or Enable (in Christchurch).
"In the course of promoting FibreX on our website, we regret we created the impression with some consumers that alternative broadband options were not available at their address, when they may have been," Vodafone said this morning in a statement on its partial climb-down.
"We should have clarified that FibreX was the recommended option, not the only option. We did not intend to mislead customers, and our website address checker has since been updated.
"Vodafone launched FibreX with the intention of providing consumers with a compelling broadband alternative to pure fibre that would also be more affordable and offer a better installation experience. We delivered that through a significant investment in our own hybrid fibre coaxial [HFC] network. We are proud of the product and the network it runs on. FibreX has enhanced broadband competition in New Zealand and offered consumers a fibre-comparable user experience."
Vodafone and the Commerce Commission have a conference scheduled for December 3. If that fails to resolve matters, a court date will be set.
The ComCom declined comment while the case was before the court.
New Vodafone NZ chief executive Jason Paris started on November 1.
Paris told the Herald soon after his appointment that his company has to do a better job at marketing.
Long-time Vodafone NZ marketing boss Matt Williams announced his resignation around the time of Paris' appointment. He has been replaced by former NZME and MYOB executive Carolyn Luey