Telstra taking ACCC to court over wholesale pricing investigation

21 Jan 2014

Australian fixed line incumbent Telstra is reportedly taking the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to Federal Court as it presses for limitations on the regulator’s powers. According to the Australian Financial Review, with Telstra also taking three of its rival internet service providers (ISPs) to court, documents lodged in the Federal Court note that the issue relates to the incumbent’s attempts to increase the amount it charged certain wholesale customers for access to its telephone exchanges and underground ducts in the latter half of 2012. Having looked to hike rates charged to Vocus Fibre, Adam Internet and Chime Communications by the rate of inflation, the alternative operators jointly appealed the move to the ACCC, which then agreed to investigate the matter. For its part Telstra argued, however, that the watchdog did not have the power to pass judgement on the signed commercial contracts, and in its court filing the telco was cited as saying: ‘The determination that the ACCC has jurisdiction . . . to conduct an arbitration between Telstra and Vocus . . . involved an error of law [and/or] involved a jurisdictional error.’

Commenting on the decision to take the matter to court, an unnamed Telstra spokesman noted: ‘We have a commercial contract with Adam, Chime and Vocus and there is no suggestion that we have breached it, so there is nothing for the ACCC to arbitrate when it comes to these charges … We have not been able to reach agreement with them through a mediation process, so we are asking the court to clarify that the charges in the contract are binding and therefore there is nothing for the ACCC to arbitrate.’