Commerce Commission lays 11 charges against Spark over 'false and misleading representations' to customers

Eleven charges have been laid against Spark New Zealand today by the Commerce Commission. 

It alleges Spark made "false or misleading representations relating to its billing and a $100 offer for new customers".

In a statement, the Commerce Commission said the charges were filed in the Auckland District Court after three alleged incidents.

These include customers being overcharged after a fault in Spark's broadband network caused a mis-recording of usage and an offer by Spark of $100 account credit for subscribing to a particular broadband plan that could only be redeemed by phoning Spark. However the Commerce Commission claimed it gave customers the impression they would be eligible for the credit if they signed up online.

The last charge claimed that from June 2, 2014, terms and conditions stated that Spark charges would end after 30 days if the customer gave notice to end their contract, but "the Commission alleges that the customer's final bill included charges for the entire next monthly billing period regardless of when the Spark service stopped". 

Spark New Zealand made a statement this morning acknowledging the charges, and said that it had "already applied credits to the accounts of all impacted customers and, for former customers, [and] has made extensive efforts to return all money owed so they receive the benefit of their credit".

Spark’s managing director Simon Moutter said the incidents were "all system-based errors caused by genuine mistakes with no malicious intent involved on the part of Spark".

"That being said, we are deeply disappointed that these issues have affected our customers.

"These errors were for the most part an unfortunate and unintended consequence of some of the change we’ve been through and we regret that they occurred," Mr Moutter said.

"We have spent time learning from these issues, amending processes, updating training and staff resources, and we continue to work hard to ensure these kinds of errors don't recur in future. We have made every effort to ensure that customers have received all amounts owing to them and will continue to do so."

The hardware issue in a data centre caused frustration for thousands of Kiwis.
Source: 1 NEWS

New Zealand new Ambassador to the US named

Diplomat Rosemary Banks has been announced as New Zealand's new Ambassador to the United States, taking over the role from Tim Groser.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said Ms Banks was "highly experienced diplomat and public servant who will be a consummate professional in representing New Zealand's interests in Washington". 

She currently is a Crown Negotiator in the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process and has held roles in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Ms Banks also was New Zealand's Ambassador to France and Portugal.

"The Government also wishes to acknowledge the departing Ambassador, Hon Tim Groser for his service. He has been a strong advocate for New Zealand and has been successful in cementing the relationship between our two countries," Mr Peters said. 

Rosemary Banks, Political Science and International Relations, 7.11.16
Rosemary Banks. Source: Supplied

Man charged after loaded gun pointed at Auckland police officers fails to fire during violent late night incident

A man faces multiple charges after a loaded gun was aimed at police officers in Auckland last night.

Police allege the man presented a cut-down rifle at the officers and pulled the trigger twice but it did not discharge as the safety catch was on.

The incident happened in Atkinson Ave, Otahuhu at around 9.35pm.

The 36-year-old is accused of two counts of using a firearm against law enforcement, along with charges for unlawful possession of ammunition, causing injuries, unlawful possession of a pistol and unlawfully taking a motor vehicle.

And more charges are possible, police said.

Police were attempting to pull over a stolen vehicle when the driver jumped out and ran up to the police car, pointing the weapon and pulling the trigger before the officers could respond, police said in a statement.

The man dropped the gun after police tasered him, but he had to be tasered a second time when he tried to get inside the officers' vehicle, police said.

One of the officers was punched twice in the face as they attempted to subdue the man, according to police. He was tasered again while attempting to run away.

"Our community will be horrified by this alarming incident, which could have easily had a tragic outcome for our police officers," said Inspector Naila Hassan, the area commander for Counties Manukau West, as she praised the officers for their quick thinking.

"Our brave staff come to work every day to keep the public safe and the absolute last thing they deserve is to be threatened with a firearm."

Deputy Commissioner Districts John Tims echoed the sentiment.

"Our staff should not have to deal with these types of situations, but the reality of policing means our officers are put in dangerous situations every day," he said.

Police car generic.
Police car generic. Source: 1 NEWS

The man is expected to make an appearance in the Manukau District Court today.

The two officers were saved by the fact the safety catch was on. Source: 1 NEWS


Lifeline turns down help offer despite struggling to cope with volume of calls

Lifeline has refused help from another helpline provider, even though it's struggling to cope with the volume of calls it's getting.

Last week, Lifeline launched a new fundraising campaign, saying a lack of money meant it wasn't able to answer one in four calls.

Homecare Medical gets Government funding to operate a number of health, depression, and counselling helplines, known as the national telehealth service.

It said it had offered support to Lifeline multiple times over the last three years, when its call demand outstripped resources.

Homecare Medical chief executive, Andrew Slater, said that to date that offer hadn't been taken up.

"Part of our work is to support the entire health system in responding to New Zealanders' needs. This includes supporting other helplines in their work. This includes advice on technology, sharing operational policy and procedures and during times of peak demand, supporting them when they can't respond to their demand," he said.

Homecare Medical remained willing to work with Lifeline to find a solution to ensure all calls were answered, he said.

Lifeline wouldn't say why it hadn't taken up the offer.

It said its discussions with Homecare Medical were ongoing.

In 2015, Homecare Medical won the contract to operate the National Telehealth Service.

The 24/7 free helplines it operates include Healthline, Quitline, 1737 Need to Talk?, and the Depression Helpline.

Lifeline is part of Presbyterian Support Northern. It does not receive Government funding.

Lifeline declined a request for an interview.

By Sarah Robson

The telco is doing away with the old technology and switching to an internet based system.
Source: 1 NEWS


Microplastics, native tree diseases among scientific studies given a $249 million Government cash injection

New Zealand's most prestigious science grant has just been awarded to 69 new research projects at a cost of $249 million, the Government has announced.

Among the projects given the green light today are a $12.5 million, five-year study into the impact of microplastics and a $13 million, five-year study into protecting our forests from plant diseases like myrtle rust.

"This year the Endeavour Fund is investing in improving our resilience to climate change, our transition to a low-emissions economy, monitoring of natural disasters, and protecting our biodiversity," Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods said in a statement announcing the big expenditure.

The programme is intended to boost research "that makes a vital contribution to New Zealand's future" - including our economy, our environmental sustainability and "the strength of our society".

Other projects included in today's list included a $1 million University of Auckland study into "thermal shielding" while returning small payloads from space, a $6 million supercomputing project out of Victoria University of Wellington, a $1 million look by NIWA into eel spawning sites, and a $2.2 million University of Waikato study into violence prevention and intervention through "Māori cultural frameworks".

The research projects were chosen by the MBIE's seven-member Science Board.

Myrtle Rust found in NZ
Source: Te Karere