Australia’s Federal Court has dismissed an application made by Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) which sought a judicial review of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC’s) conduct in holding a public inquiry and making a draft decision not to declare a domestic mobile roaming service.
Previously, in May 2017 the regulator had published a draft decision in which it said it had found insufficient evidence that the declaration of a wholesale domestic mobile roaming service would promote the long-term interests of end users. Just a month later, however, VHA applied to the Federal Court seeking court orders to quash the ACCC’s draft decision and restrain the regulator from proceeding with the inquiry on the basis of the draft decision. Nonetheless, the ACCC opted to proceed with its public inquiry while responding to VHA’s application for judicial review, and in October 2017 it released its final report into whether to declare a domestic mobile roaming service, concluding there still was not enough evidence that declaration would benefit consumers. It did however identify a range of measures in its accompanying ‘Measures to address regional mobile issues paper’ that could help to improve inadequate mobile phone coverage and poor quality of service in regional Australia.
Now, in confirming the matter had been dismissed by the Federal Court, ACCC chairman Rod Sims noted: ‘The inquiry process is, by its very nature, a broad and flexible tool. It enables the ACCC to approach problems with an open mind and provides ample opportunity for all relevant viewpoints to be shared and given a considered hearing … It is important that the ACCC is able to thoroughly consider issues and views during the public inquiry process, especially where the ACCC is deciding whether or not to regulate a service … The decision by the Court in dismissing Vodafone’s judicial review application validates the appropriateness of the ACCC’s approach to conducting public inquiries of this nature.’