Telstra sets Federal Court date with ACCC, Vocus and iiNet subsidiaries

Dispute centres on the amount the ISPs are charged for access to Telstra exchanges, underground ducts

Telstra (ASX: TLS) is taking the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Vocus Communications (ASX: VOC) and iiNet (ASX: IIN) subsidiaries to the Federal Court on February 13 over an exchange and underground duct access pricing increase dispute.

A Telstra spokesman said the price increase was applied under the standard terms of a wholesale contract with Vocus Fibre, Adam Internet and Chime Communications.

“This increase was based on the consumer price index and we believe it is binding under the contract,” he said in a statement.

However, Vocus Fibre, Adam Internet and Chime Communications appealed the price increase to the ACCC.

The ACCC determined that it had jurisdiction to act as arbitrator in the dispute. Telstra responded by lodging judicial review proceedings against the consumer watchdog and the ISPs.

“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,” the spokesman said.

He added that Telstra has one take on the issue and the customers have another.

“We have not been able to reach agreement with them through a mediation process, so we are asking the [Federal] Court to clarify that the charges in the contract are binding and therefore there is nothing for the ACCC to arbitrate.”

In a statement released to the ASX on Friday, Vocus Communications CEO James Spenceley confirmed that it had been named as a respondent in the court proceedings.

“The Vocus board is of the opinion that should Telstra be successful, either in the judicial review proceedings or in the ACCC arbitration, this will have no material impact on its profit and loss or forecasts. This includes the costs of both proceedings,” he said.

In a statement, the ACCC said that under the <i>Telecommunications Act 1997</i> it has an arbitral role where carriers notify the ACCC of a dispute under the Act.

iiNet was contacted for a response by Computerworld Australia but declined to comment.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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Tags TelstraiiNetAdam InternetAustralian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)Vocus CommunicationsChime Communications

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