A hearing date of February 20 in the Victorian Federal Court has been set for Telstra's (ASX: TLS) case with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Vocus Communications (ASX: VOC) and iiNet (ASX: IIN) subsidiaries. The decision follows a first directions hearing in the New South Wales Federal Court today.
The case centres around an exchange and underground duct access pricing dispute.
The price increase was applied under the terms of a wholesale contract with Vocus Fibre, Adam Internet and Chime Communications.
However, the three parties 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.
Presiding in the NSW Federal Court, Justice Flick asked Telstra’s legal team why the case should be given precedence over others in the Federal Court given it was a “squabble” about the terms and conditions of underground facility access.
Telstra’s lawyers replied that the case is of interest for the telecommunications industry and could have ramifications for the way business is conducted.
A legal team representing Vocus Fibre, Adam Internet and Chime Communications said the agreement with Telstra was not binding because the rates that were charged for exchange and underground duct access pricing were not agreed to.
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In January 2014, a Telstra spokesman told Computerworld Australia that the increase was based on the consumer price index and the company believed it was binding under the contract.
“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 at the time.
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