Vodafone has agreed to make a €7,500 charitable contribution to avoid a criminal conviction for failing to hand over 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 market.
Ronan Kennedy, prosecuting, told Judge O’Neill the legislation followed EU directives. The Act 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 analysis depended on timely and accurate data. ComReg had consulted with Vodafone from July 2013 to 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 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 were affected, it could impact on consumers.
Paul Anthony McDermott, defending, asked Judge O’Neill to note that all the data had been furnished and the company had always engaged with ComReg. He said it was complex and involved “big blocks of information”.
Vodafone has put in place a team to ensure ComReg will be provided with the data it requires by the due date. If that does not happen the issue will be addressed “at the very top”, by the company’s chief executive, counsel said.
Mr McDermott said the delay had been the result of Vodafone acquiring another company; some of its 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.
Vodafone has agreed to pay €15,000 towards ComReg’s legal costs, counsel said.
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 in Dublin. He adjourned the case until October 6.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved