ACCC goes after Telstra, again (updated)

Watchdog initiates proceedings against incumbent Telco for alleged access violations

The ACCC has initiated proceedings in the Federal Court of Melbourne against Telstra for alleged violations of standard access obligations for Unconditional Local Loop Service (ULLS) and Line Sharing Services (LSS).

The commission has accused the telco of refusing access seekers’ requests for interconnection at seven key metropolitan exchanges, claiming they were “capped”. The list of “capped” exchanges was published on the company’s wholesale website.

In a statement, the commission points to Telstra's claims that its main distribution frames were full, impeding access seekers ability to interconnect their equipment to the copper wires running to customer homes. The ACCC accused Telstra of misleading and deceptive conduct, alleging there was capacity available or the telco had the ability to make it available.

IDC analyst, David Cannon, said the the big question that needs to be answered in these proceedings is whether or not Telstra is favouring its own customers over those of access seekers.

Budde Communications managing director, Paul Budde, said while Telstra was unlikely to win against the ACCC, the incumbent telco would certainly try to delay proceedings.

“It is always in Telstra’s best interest to delay,” he said. “If they can delay through court cases for another year, it is another year of profit for them. So in a sense, they will still win by making it more difficult for competitors for perhaps another year or so.”

Budde predicted that Telstra would be fined and ordered to rectify the damage done.

Under the standard access obligation of the Trade Practices Act 1974 (TPA), Telstra must supply ULL and LSS to access seekers, allowing them to interconnect their own facilities so they can bring telephony and broadband services to retail customers.

The ACCC is seeking declarations, pecuniary penalties and injunctions.

A directions hearing in the Melbourne Federal Court will be held on April 17.

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