Telstra kicks ACCC out of exchange fees fight

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Telstra kicks ACCC out of exchange fees fight

Updated: Wins appeal against court ruling.

Telstra has successfully removed the nation's consumer watchdog from an ongoing pricing dispute with its wholesale providers, today winning a legal challenge over the ACCC's ability to intervene.

The Federal Court today upheld the telco's appeal against a previous Court decision, which had ruled the Australian Competition and Consumer Watchdog had the authority to intervene in the ongoing battle over wholesale access pricing.

Telstra took the ACCC and a number of its wholesale partners to court earlier this year to argue that the watchdog did not have the jurisdiction to arbitrate in the conflict.

The battle between Telstra and Vocus Fibre, Adam Internet and Chime Communications arose from Telstra's decision to raise the fees it charges wholesale partners to access its exchanges and underground ducts in 2012 by three percent.

The ACCC had intervened in the argument after being approached by the disgruntled internet service providers, but Telstra took issue with the ACCC interfering and took the group to the Federal Court.

Its case was knocked back in March this year, with Telstra ordered to pay the group’s court costs.

But the telco appealed the decision in April, and was today given favour by a Melbourne Federal Court judge.

Telstra has previously argued it acted in accordance with the contracts in place with its wholesale partners, and as such believed there were no grounds for dispute.

"Today’s ruling confirms we have a binding contract in place with the three wholesale customers and there is no basis for arbitration," a spokesperson said today.

"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."

The court found the ACCC had no power to hear or determine in the dispute, and ordered the ISPs to pay Telstra's costs.

Vocus has been contacted for comment. The ACCC declined to comment at the time of writing.

Updated 3:50pm: The ACCC said in light of the judgment it would cease arbitration of the dispute.

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