The New Zealand Commerce Commission (Commission) has successfully brought proceedings against Contact Energy Limited (Contact Energy) in the Wellington District Court for breaching the Fair Trading Act 1986 (the Act). Contact Energy plead guilty to seven charges under the Act, relating to false or misleading representations which it made as part of its Fuel Rewards Plans promotion.

The Act is designed to protect the interests of consumers and promote fair conduct in trade. The courts have a wide range of powers where the Act has been breached such as orders for damages in private actions, and various compensation orders. Where an action is brought by the Commerce Commission the Court can make orders for corrective advertising.

The Fuel Rewards promotion was offering customers fuel discounts of 10 or 30 cents “every month”. The promotion was misleading because the phrases attached to the advertising, such as “no tricks, no waiting, no surprise”, might lead customers to believe that there was no other fine print or terms and conditions linked to the promotion, which was not the case.