Court blocks ACCC from Telstra access dispute

The Australian competition watchdog has been blocked from intervening in a between Telstra and its retail customers over access price increases.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission does not have the power to intervene in a dispute between Telstra and several of its retail customers over the prices for accessing its exchanges and ducts, the Full Federal Court has ruled.

Vocus, Adam Internet, and Chime sought ACCC intervention over Telstra's proposal in increasing the price for access to the exchanges and ducts. The ACCC at the time said it had no jurisdiction in the matter, and Telstra took the ISPs to court to clarify the ACCC's role in access disputes.

The court ruled in Telstra's favour and ordered Telstra to pay costs. On appeal , however, the Full Court has overturned the original ruling by Justice Geoffrey Flick, stating that the ACCC had no power to intervene in the case.

Telstra today welcomed the ruling.

"Today's ruling confirms we have a binding contract in place with the three wholesale customers and there is no basis for arbitration. The decision provides clarity and upholds an important point for us about the extent of the ACCC's jurisdiction over our commercial relationship with wholesale customers," a spokesperson for Telstra said in a statement.

The ACCC said it would cease arbitrating the matter.

"On appeal, the Full Federal Court has decided that the parties did have agreed terms and conditions in relation to charges and the disputes related to the implementation of those agreed terms and conditions. Therefore the court found that the ACCC cannot hear or determine these disputes.

"In light of the judgment the ACCC will cease arbitration of these matters."