ACCC patches CMS after early release of TPG-Vodafone decision

Competition commission completes investigation into release of market-moving decision on telco merger

The Australian Competition and Consumer says that it has applied a patch to its content management system (CMS) to address a flaw that led to its decision about Vodafone and TPG’s proposed merger being published a day early.

The ACCC appears to use Drupal 7 as its CMS.

The ACCC today issued a statement expressing “deep regret” after its decision to oppose the merger was posted on its website just before 3pm on 8 May. The competition regulator had originally intended to release its decision the next day.

In the wake of the decision the share prices of TPG and Hutchison Telecommunications Australia (HTA) — which is a 50 per cent owner of Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) — dropped substantially.

The commission said it had conducted an investigation into the incident.

“The information became public when, following the normal practice ahead of announcements, the information was being input into the back end of the mergers register, a third-party user sought to access the existing webpage at the precise moment it was being updated,” the statement from the ACCC said.

“Instead of the new information being treated as draft content requiring internal approval, the flaw meant the content was live for eight minutes.”

Because the decision was posted while the ASX was still trading, the ACCC quickly issued a statement to the market confirming its decision on the merger.

“We apologise unreservedly for this unfortunate and serious incident,” ACCC chief operating officer Rayne de Gruchy said.

“The ACCC has successfully managed highly market-sensitive commercial information for decades and this is the first time, to our knowledge, that a merger decision has been released in this manner.”

“We have thoroughly reviewed all of the processes and information technology systems that led to this error, and we want to assure our stakeholders this incident will not be repeated,” the COO said.

The ACCC says its decision to oppose the tie-up between the two telcos was motivated by concerns over the likely negative impact on competition in the telco market. It said its expectation was that if VHA and TPG don’t tie the knot then TPG may be compelled to resume its rollout of a mobile network — giving Australia a fourth mobile network operator.

TPG in January this year said it had dumped its mobile network ambitions, blaming a government decision to block the use of Huawei equipment for 5G services (although TPG was rolling out a 4G network, it said that the Huawei ban would leave it with no clear pathway to upgrade to the next-generation standard). The TPG decision followed the ACCC in late 2018 expressing concerns that a merger with VHA could rob Australia of a fourth MNO.

In the wake of the ACCC’s announcement on the merger, VHA and TPG announced that they will take the regulator to Federal Court, seeking to reverse the decision.

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Tags TelecommunicationsTPGAustralian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA)content management system (CMS)

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