Vodafone avoids conviction for failing to hand over data

Vodafone avoids conviction for failing to hand over data

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 Regulations 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 they 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 toward ComReg's legal costs.

Today he noted that a receipt had been furnished to the court and said the hospital has benefited as he applied the Probation Act.

Prosecution counsel Ronan Kennedy had told Judge O'Neill legislation requires 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 were given a notice of their 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 that 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 but there could have been a “ripple” effect. Mr Kennedy said if the market analysis were affected it could potentially have an effect for consumers.

Paul Anthony McDermott BL, defending, had asked Judge O'Neill to note that all the data has been furnished and the company had always engaged with ComReg. Mr McDermott said that it was complex and involved “big blocks of information”.

Vodafone has put in place a team to ensure that in future ComReg will be provided with the data they require by the due date and if that does not happen the issue will 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. He said this was unlike a prosecution against Vodafone in July for offences which had directly affected consumers.