Spark and the Commerce Commission have agreed to undertakings following a Commerce Commission investigation into the historic sale of Spark’s wire maintenance service.
Wire maintenance is a service available to customers with in-home wiring – it is common across the industry and was created at a time when customers were predominately using copper-based services, which require maintenance at times. It has been a longstanding industry practice that if wiring issues occur outside the home, then the local fibre and copper company will cover the cost to fix it, but if the fault occurs inside the home, then this cost sits with the customer. The optional wire maintenance service was put in place to help customers avoid this cost.
Product Director Tessa Tierney said: “The wire maintenance service was originally put in place for copper customers, but in more recent years was also available to fibre customers. While some of these customers did benefit from the service, it was not applicable for the majority. So, in 2020 we stopped offering wire maintenance on fibre connections and proactively removed the service on current fibre connections. We’ve since refunded all eligible existing Spark customers and have been working hard to contact eligible former customers advising them of their available refund to claim. To date approximately 95% of eligible former customers have claimed their refund.
“We also identified a small number of wireless broadband customers who were charged for the wire maintenance service as a result of separate historical system errors. We have communicated to, and processed refunds for, all wireless customers who were charged in error.
“We recognise this falls short of the high standards of product management our fibre and wireless customers both expect and deserve, and we apologise to anyone impacted. We are committed to improving our systems and processes to ensure this does not happen again.”
Due to the fact some former customers may have changed their contact details since being with Spark, they may not have received the communication and instructions on how to claim their refund. To reach as many people as possible Spark has deployed a targeted online advertising campaign, encouraging former fibre and wireless customers who may have a refund available to claim to get in touch. Spark has also engaged with key advocacy groups to extend the message to those who were less likely to engage via digital platforms.
Later this year, Spark will donate the value of any remaining unclaimed refunds under $100 to a recognised charity or charities*, but customers will still have the ability to claim their refund from Spark at any point after the donation date. At the same time, any unclaimed refunds of more than $100 will go to the Inland Revenue Department (IRD). When this happens, customers will need to claim their refund directly from the IRD.
We encourage former Spark customers who paid for wire maintenance while on a fibre or wireless connection and who have not yet claimed their refund to get in touch via spark.co.nz/accountrefund.
*Excluding charities directly associated with Spark e.g., Spark Foundation