Telstra is set to be slugged with a hefty bill after a judge ordered it to cough up the legal costs incurred by a group of rival telcos during a Federal Court fight over wholesale charges.
Justice Foster in March dismissed Telstra’s appeal of an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) decision that cut the prices it can charge customers of a range of its wholesale services.
Foster ordered that Telstra pay the ACCC’s costs, and in a judgement handed down today said that the company would have to pay the costs of the five telcos that opposed its appeal.
In its submission on costs, Telstra had argued that between the telcos and the ACCC there had been unnecessary duplication during the proceedings.
Justice Foster rejected the argument, however. “I am not persuaded that there was unnecessary or unreasonable duplication in the way in which the respondents conducted themselves in and in relation to the proceeding,” his ruling states.
“Of necessity, there was some repetition but, in all the circumstances, it did not rise to the point of being undue repetition.”
The ruling states: "The proceeding brought by Telstra was of great commercial significance to it and to each of the access seekers... Their participation in the proceeding was, in truth, necessary. Their conduct was, at all times, reasonable and appropriate. Telstra's concerns that the participation by the access seekers in the proceeding might delay or add unduly to the costs thereof never came to fruition.”
The dispute centred on an October 2015 ACCC ruling that cut the prices of Telstra’s unconditional local loop service (ULLS), line sharing service (LSS), wholesale line retail (WLR), local carriage service (LCS), fixed originating access service (FOAS), fixed terminating access service (FTAS) and wholesale ADSL service.
Telstra had argued that it should be allowed to raise its wholesale charges for fixed line services by 7.2 per cent — the ACCC, however, imposed a 9.4 per cent price cut.