One New Zealand expressed disappointment the Commerce Commission is taking legal action related to its compliance with a code ensuring vulnerable consumers can contact emergency services during power cuts.

The commission filed civil proceedings in the high court against the operator, with telecommunications commissioner Tristan Gilbertson stating it brought the action “in light of One NZ’s disregard for the code and the safety of vulnerable consumers”.

Gilbertson added given widespread compliance across the industry, One NZ’s failure to inform and protect its customers is a serious concern.

The operator insisted it has fully cooperated since it became aware of the commission’s concerns and has been transparent throughout, noting it was open about where it had gaps. These included missing a deadline to contact some existing vulnerable customers within 12 months. 

Given its openness, cooperation and commitment to achieving compliance, One NZ declared it was surprised by the commission’s decision to start proceedings. “We’re committed to supporting vulnerable New Zealanders who rely on their landline service for contacting 111 emergency services.”

The company said it welcomed the review of the code that the commission is now undertaking, which it hopes will “bring much-needed clarity about its requirements”.

To put the matter in perspective, One NZ noted 120 customers registered as vulnerable under the code, all supplied with either a mobile phone or battery backup. It has about 100,000 residential landline customers.

Breaches of the code can carry penalties of up to NZD300,000 ($176,700) for each breach and further fines for continuing issues.