The Federal Court’s rejection of Telstra’s attempt to overturn an ACCC ruling on prices for its monopoly services shows yet again that Telstra’s willingness to use the courts to undermine industry certainty, even when it has the flimsiest case.
Telstra’s appeal of the ACCC’s decision – made after a two-year inquiry – has cast a shadow over the industry for more than a year.
Competitors had to deal with the potential for multi-million dollar back payments to Telstra if the Court had accepted Telstra’s technical legal arguments that the ACCC’s decision had been administratively flawed.
The Federal Court’s rejection of Telstra’s case still comes at the expense of millions of dollars in time and money to competitors and the courts.
“At a time when the Parliament is considering watering down competition law protections in the telecommunications industry, this could not sound a louder warning about the dangers of giving Telstra any more advantages at the expense of competitors and consumers,” CCC chairman Matt Healy said.
At issue in the case was whether Telstra could shield from ACCC consideration the impact of the billions of dollars the Government and NBN agreed to pay it under its renegotiated NBN deal to buy or retire parts of its legacy copper network.
“Telstra was, in effect, asking for a multi-million dollar double dip,” he said.
“While the court’s rejection of Telstra’s claim is very welcome, this case shows again the inequity in the industry, and the importance of protecting competition in telco markets while Telstra continues to display such a contumelious attitude toward competitors and regulatory decisions it doesn’t like,” Mr Healy said.
“Delay and uncertainty is itself a win for Telstra because its market power and profits are so massive that it can afford to litigate matters even when its case is tissue thin,” he said.