Spark Sport threatened with class action lawsuit over Rugby World Cup coverage

A group of rugby fans who are unhappy with the streaming service Spark Sports has provided of the Rugby World Cup have threatened legal action. 

The group, called The People v Spark Sport, say they will take a class action lawsuit against Spark Sport for $250 million over failings of its streaming service. 

The group announced the class action on their Facebook page saying customers "who experience any minor or major issues with regards to Spark Sport App or Spark Services (inc Spark or Spark Sport customer service experiences) during the RWC campaign will be represented at no cost to those customers AFFECTED. 

"Customers that have not experienced issues may choose to 'opt out' of the lawsuit."

Spark Sport's streaming of the All Black's first game of the tournament, a victory over South Africa, was plagued with issues, including intermittent periods of reduced video quality such as pixelation and buffering. 

Spark Sport moved the game to free-to-air and issued a statement afterwards apologising. 

"Midway through the first half we identified that the quality of the video stream was fluctuating for some customers," the company said in a statement.

"We were uncomfortable at the quality of the experience our customers were getting and, as we always said we would, we moved quickly to provide them with an alternative means of watching the match. 

"We had prior established procedures with our partner TVNZ to enable live, free-to-air coverage at short notice."

Spark CEO, Jolie Hodson added: "We are very disappointed that some New Zealanders did not get the experience they deserved last night during such an important match." 

Spark Sport says coverage of the tournament since then has been good but acknowledged some customers are still having problems. 

In a statement after Wales beat Georgia on Monday the company said "vast majority" of viewers successfully streamed the latest Rugby World Cup match but a small lot did have issues "unrelated to the Spark Sport platform".

"Spark Sport is pleased to confirm that the Wales v Georgia match streamed successfully both from a platform and broadband network perspective.

"The vast majority of Spark Sport customers who watched Spark Sport live and on-demand had a great viewing experience." 

When it is filed the lawsuit would claim Spark Sport misled customers about its streaming product. 

In a satement to Newshub Spark Sport said they had yet to be directly contacted with any information as to the basis of the claims to be alleged.

The company also said it was comfortable they had satisfied their legal obligations.

"The primary request from The People vs Spark Sport, has been for us to show all remaining matches simulcast on TVNZ.

"While we have a contingency plan in place, we have a set of criteria around how we decide to activate this plan.

"We have been clear since we announced this plan that Spark would only decide to switch to simulcast on TVNZ in the event of a significant failure of the Spark Sport platform or a widespread breakdown of streaming availability.

"We activated the simulcast on Saturday, September 21, during the pool match between the All Blacks and South Africa, because we had identified a fault within our streaming delivery chain.

"To give customers confidence in Spark Sport, we chose to continue to simulcast the next day’s games on TVNZ Duke while we confirmed that the network configuration changes we made to the platform had resolved this fault."

"Since that date, we have not had a significant failure or widespread breakdown of streaming availability, so we will not be simulcasting on TVNZ.

"As we do with all our customers, we have repeatedly offered assistance to the owner of the Facebook page to resolve her personal streaming issues with Spark Sport.

"She has decided to decline any support from Spark Sport.

"We continue to strongly encourage customers who are unhappy to seek help from us directly and take advantage of our enhanced care measures," the statement said.