ACCC under fire as One.Tel cries foul

Murdoch-Packer telco venture One.Tel has accused the ACCC of bias towards Telstra and of publishing misleading information concerning the effect of the GST on local call charges.

According to One.Tel, GST legislation allows Telstra to charge wholesale GST on rental fees charged to other carriers that rent Telstra's networking infrastructure -- including One.Tel, Cable & Wireless Optus and AAPT -- obliging those carriers to increase local call charges to customers accordingly.

Telstra has confirmed it will not alter its own local call charges as a result of the new tax.

One.Tel complained that the ACCC would state, in a GST guide to be delivered to every Australian home and available from post offices from June 19, that "there will be zero change in the cost of a local call after GST".

This claim, One.Tel said, was true only of local calls charged directly to Telstra.

A Telstra spokesperson said that both the carriers renting its infrastructure and their customers would remain unaffected by GST if those carriers claimed GST paid to the telco giant as an "input tax credit".

Whether network resellers such as One.Tel passed the new tax onto their customers -- requiring customers to claim the tax credit themselves -- or simply claimed the tax credit internally, leaving local call charges unchanged, was "a commercial decision they have to make", the Telstra spokesperson said.

One.Tel maintained that, if burdened with claiming the tax internally, GST legislation remained heavily skewed in favour of Telstra.

"It's a competition issue," One.Tel's legal counsel, Shanti Berggren, said.

Optus said it simply planned to "absorb" the GST and not change call rates, despite any increase in fees paid to Telstra.

The ACCC is believed to have re-opened investigations into Telstra's GST pricing strategy but would not return IDG's calls.

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