Home Telecoms & NBN Court rejects Vodafone bid to review mobile roaming draft decision

Court rejects Vodafone bid to review mobile roaming draft decision

The Federal Court has rejected Vodafone Hutchison Australia's application to review the conduct of the competition watchdog in holding a public inquiry and making a draft decision not to declare mobile roaming.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission published its draft decision in May, saying it had found insufficient evidence that the declaration of a wholesale domestic mobile roaming service would promote the long-term interests of end users.

On 2 June, Vodafone sought judicial review of the ACCC’s conduct in holding a public inquiry and making a draft decision. It sought court orders to quash the ACCC’s draft decision and restrain the watchdog from proceeding with the inquiry on the basis of the draft decision.

“The inquiry process is, by its very nature, a broad and flexible tool. It enables the ACCC to approach problems with an open mind and provides ample opportunity for all relevant viewpoints to be shared and given a considered hearing,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

“It is important that the ACCC is able to thoroughly consider issues and views during the public inquiry process, especially where the ACCC is deciding whether or not to regulate a service.

“The decision by the Court in dismissing Vodafone’s judicial review application validates the appropriateness of the ACCC’s approach to conducting public inquiries of this nature.”

Telstra was joined as the second respondent and the Court granted Optus leave to intervene in the proceedings. The hearing took place on 27 and 28 September 2017.

The ACCC decided to proceed with the public inquiry while responding to VHA’s application for judicial review. On 23 October, the ACCC released its final report into whether to declare a domestic mobile roaming service and concluded that there was insufficient evidence that declaration would promote the LTIE.

However, it identified a range of measures in its accompanying "Measures to address regional mobile issues paper" that could help to improve inadequate mobile phone coverage and poor quality of service in regional Australia.

VHA chief strategy officer Dan Lloyd said the company respected the Federal Court's decision.

"We will review the judgement in detail, and consider our next steps," he said in a statement. "Our initial reaction is one of concern about the potential implications for the clarity and robustness required of the ACCC when making important decisions which affect millions of Australians."

He said the company's domestic roaming campaign and subsequent legal action were carried out with the best interests of regional Australia in mind.

"Despite the court’s decision, there is clearly still a problem that needs to be solved. The status quo is hurting regional Australia," Lloyd said. "Taxpayers have largely funded Telstra’s regional mobile network, but people in these areas do not have the mobile coverage and choice they want, need and deserve.

"We still firmly believe domestic roaming is Australia’s best opportunity to boost coverage and competition in areas where it doesn’t currently exist. However, we will continue to put forward constructive suggestions and pursue regulatory solutions to boost coverage and competition in regional Australia."

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.