Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) called for a judicial review of an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) domestic roaming inquiry, claiming the process was flawed.
The competition watchdog in early May proposed not to declare a wholesale domestic mobile roaming regime, which would require operators to share their mobile networks with rivals. ACCC chairman Rod Sims said it is unclear a declaration would improve the current state of competition overall.
In a filing with the Federal Court of Australia, VHA claimed the ACCC asked for final submissions in its inquiry, but is yet to offer a detailed description of the roaming service, which the operator considers it is required to do by law.
“We do not believe the process has been carried out properly because a specific domestic roaming service has not been defined. The process is failing consumers because it is too vague. The decision on domestic roaming is too important to regional Australia for the inquiry to continue in a flawed way,” VHA said in a statement.
In its filing, the operator argued the lack of detail on the parameters of the proposed declared service make it impossible for the ACCC to conduct its analysis regarding whether regulating such a service would be in the long-term interests of end users or not. It is also not possible for interested parties to provide relevant and meaningful submissions in response to the draft report.
The ACCC said it is extremely conscious of the fact mobile coverage and choice of service provider are vital issues in regional, rural and remote areas: “However, the effect declaration would have on competition in regional, rural and remote areas is uncertain,” Sims said.
VHA said Australian mobile phone users will continue to pay too much and suffer poor coverage in regional areas following the ACCC draft decision. It noted the domestic mobile roaming inquiry is an opportunity to “do better for regional Australia”, but if domestic roaming is not declared, consumers will be denied the benefits of increased coverage, competition and choice.
The deadline for submitting comments on ACCC’s draft decision was 2 June.