Vodafone’s decision to rebrand its hybrid fibre-coaxial network as FibreX has landed it with 27 charges under the Fair Trading Act. The move follows an extended investigation into Vodafone’s service and the way it has been marketed.

Last Friday the Commerce Commission laid the charges which relate to misleading conduct in the three regions where Vodafone offers FibreX: Wellington, Christchurch and Kapiti. The cases in question took place between 26 October 2016 and 28 March 2018. 

According to the Commerce Commission the name FibreX and its advertising on billboards, radio, in-store, online and in direct marketing misled potential customers into thinking they were buying a service like Ultra-Fast Broadband. 

While FibreX can offer good performance, it is not true fibre to the home. 

FibreX runs on the HFC (hybrid fibre-coaxial) network Vodafone took over when it acquired TelstraClear. For a long time it had questionable performance. In 2016 Vodafone invested in the network and upgraded it to the point where it could deliver fibre-like speeds. For a while the company talked about gigabit internet. 

Unlike UFB which runs a fibre cable all the way to the home, FibreX uses fibre-fed street cabinets that connect to homes via a coaxial cable. 

The company earlier explained that it chose the name because it is a contraction of hybrid fibre-coaxial. 

In addition to the branding and advertising, the Commerce Commission says Vodafone also misled customers when they used the website to look up the broadband options for their address. 

Vodafone responded with a media statement: "We disagree with the charges laid by the Commission and welcome the opportunity to defend the naming and marketing of FibreX and reinforce the benefits of this service." 

In places the statement reads like marketing. Vodafone describes FiberX as “super-fast” and “reliable”. It says it “would also be more affordable and offer a better installation experience”. 

The case is due before the Auckland District Court on May 22.