Tuesday 16 January 2018

Vodafone is spared a conviction for failing to pass data to watchdog


Tom Tuite

Vodafone has avoided a criminal conviction for failing to hand over important data to a communications industry watchdog.

The telecoms giant pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court to a charge under the Communications Regulation Act 2002 for failing to comply with the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), after it had already been given an extended deadline in 2014.

Judge John O'Neill heard the data was necessary for analysis to ensure there was competition in the marketplace, which could have had an effect for consumers.

Last month Judge O'Neill said he would apply the Probation Act - sparing Vodafone a criminal conviction - if it donated €7,500 to Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin, in Dublin, which is Ireland's largest paediatric hospital.

The company also agreed to pay €15,000 towards ComReg's legal costs.

Yesterday he noted that a receipt had been furnished to the court and said the hospital has benefited.

Prosecution counsel Ronan Kennedy had told Judge O'Neill that legislation required the industry regulator to conduct complex market analysis every three years. Telecommunications operators must hand over data and information so ComReg "is fully informed".

He said the market analysis depended on timely and accurate data.

ComReg had consulted with Vodafone from July, 2013, until February, 2014, and the company was given a notice of its requirements.


Information was provided, but it was "not detailed enough and unusable". The company had already paid a penalty of €1,500 to ComReg for being late in handing over the data.

Vodafone had no prior convictions for this type of offence, the court heard.

Mr Kennedy also said the case had been listed for a two-day hearing, but that was no longer necessary because of the guilty plea, which meant witnesses did not have to give evidence.

Judge O'Neill noted that while this did not have a direct impact on consumers, there could have been a "ripple" effect. Mr Kennedy said if the market analysis was affected, it could potentially have an effect for consumers.

Paul Anthony McDermott, defending, had asked Judge O'Neill to note that all the data had been furnished and the company had always engaged with ComReg.

Mr McDermott said it was complex analysis and involved "big blocks of information".

Vodafone had put in place a team to ensure that in future ComReg would be provided with the data it required by the due date and if that did not happen the issue would be addressed "at the very top" by the company's CEO, counsel said.

Mr McDermott said the delay had been the result of Vodafone acquiring another company, some of their staff then left and there was a loss of expertise.

Irish Independent

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