Yes sir, yes sir, yes sir - Telecom faces its critics in court

Of the four cases to come before the High Court in Auckland yesterday, the defendant in three was Telecom. Clear, BellSouth and Voyager are all taking action against Telecom on competitive grounds. Although the first two battles have been well canvassed, the Voyager action could have interesting repercussions too.

Of the four cases to come before the High Court in Auckland yesterday, the defendant in three was Telecom.

Clear, BellSouth and Voyager are all taking action against Telecom on competitive grounds. Although the first two battles have been well canvassed, the Voyager action could have interesting repercussions too.

Voyager has filed action against Telecom on two main grounds.

The company's statement of claim maintains that Telecom is charging Xtra less for 0800 access than Xtra's competitors must pay. This amounts to "a constructive refusal by the defendant to supply an 0800 number service" to other ISPs, the claim says.

It also says Telecom "has admitted to the Commerce Commission that Xtra is charging its customers, in the market for providing access to the Internet, a price that is below its cost of providing services to those customers."

Telecom's aim, claims Voyager, is to "(i) restrict the entry of any new ISPs into that market and (ii) drive the plaintiff and/or other ISPs from that market and thereafter recoup the losses it will sustain over the period of its predatory pricing."

Voyager has appointed Dr Jim Farmer, QC, a competion law specialist, to pursue its case. It is seeking an injunction restraining Telecom or Xtra from pursuing pricing "which represents below cost pricing by the defendant or otherwise constitutes the practice of predatory pricing".

Voyager also seeks an order restraining Telecom from charging it any higher price for 0800 services than Xtra charges its Internet customers ("or higher than any price which the Court deems lawful"); and an enquiry into damages it may have suffered under Telecom's present pricing policy.

Telecom has until April 9 to prepare a defence.

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