Telcos seek Commission’s protection

The five companies which signed a tele-phone numbering agreement in December last year have applied to have their agreement authorised by the Commerce Commission to protect themselves from potential legal action over anti-competitive practice.

The five companies which signed a tele-phone numbering agreement in December last year have applied to have their agreement authorised by the Commerce Commission to protect themselves from potential legal action over anti-competitive practice.

If Telecom, Telstra, Vodafone, Newcall Communications and Teamtalk are successful, and stick to the agreement they have signed, says Commerce Commission chief investigator for network industries, Andrew Brice, “no one can then come along and take them to court accusing them of anti-competitive practices.”

The Commerce Act prohibits competitors working together in a way that reduces competition between them but also allows for authorisation by the Commerce Commission of potentially anti-competitive business practices if the public benefit is seen as greater than the detriment to competition.

“The applicants have taken the view that there may be some people who will think some of the provisions of the agreement are anti-competitive, and as things stand they could take them to court over that,” says Brice. “But if the commission grants authorisation then that’s that.”

The New Zealand telephone numbering agreement was brokered by Communications Minister Maurice Williamson. Several other telecommunications companies, including Clear Communications, refused to sign, saying that the agreement is too open-ended and could drag on for up to five years before full portability is introduced.

According to the Commerce Commission’s provisional timetable, initial submissions from interested parties must be made by February 15. The commission will release a Draft Determination by March 1 and submissions on that must be made by March 17. After a conference on March 30, 31 and April 1, a final determination should be issued by April 19.

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