Keeping vulnerable customers connected via their landline during a power cut

One New Zealand surprised by legal course of action after full cooperation and transparency around technical breaches of the 111 Contact Code

We’re committed to supporting vulnerable New Zealanders who rely on their landline service for contacting 111 emergency services. Since the 111 Contact Code (the Code) came into effect in February 2021, we have been making information available to landline customers to inform them about the support we provide, which includes supplying either a backup battery or a basic mobile phone at no cost.

We were recently informed that the Commerce Commission is filing civil proceedings in the High Court relating to One New Zealand’s compliance with the 111 Code, a regulation enacted under the Telecommunications Act 2001.

We are disappointed to learn of this. We have fully cooperated with the Commission since we became aware of its concerns and have been transparent throughout. We were open with the Commission about where we had gaps, such as missing the deadline to contact some existing vulnerable customers within 12 months. We also missed ensuring that certain annual communications went to all landline customers about the 111 Code, however we continued to share the information via other channels including on our website, as part of the sales process, and in welcome emails.

We remain committed to upholding the requirements of the Code. We have cooperated throughout the process including acknowledging where we had gaps, which are now rectified. We have always complied with the key requirement to ensure all relevant customers have either a mobile phone or battery backup. We are not aware of any customers being impacted or harmed.

Given our openness, cooperation, and commitment to achieving compliance, the Commission’s decision to commence proceedings came as a surprise to us.

We welcome the review of the Code that the Commission is now undertaking which we hope will bring much-needed clarity about its requirements while also delivering good outcomes for consumers.

Additional detail

The essence of the Code is that operators, like One New Zealand, must ensure that a defined group of ‘vulnerable consumers’ who have landline services with us remain able to call 111 when they move onto newer, more efficient technologies that don’t work in a power cut (e.g. fibre instead of copper landlines).

To put this into context, today there are 120 customers who have registered as vulnerable under the Code, all of whom have been supplied with either a mobile phone or battery backup. We currently have approximately 100,000 residential landline customers.

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