The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has run out of patience with Telstra, officially accusing the carrier of engaging in anti-competitive conduct in regard to its wholesale broadband customers.
The ACCC has issued a competition notice that could see Telstra's competitors and the ACCC seek damages from the telco in court.
The debacle relates to Telstra's ownership of the copper telephone lines that can be used to offer broadband data services to businesses and consumers using DSL technology. Telstra has long been criticised for failing to allow other providers to access this infrastructure at a reasonable cost.
"It is disturbing that Telstra has still not offered the particular ADSL broadband technology that was requested by wholesale customers more than a year ago, particularly in light of the fact that recently Telstra has been availing itself of the technology," said ACCC chairman Professor Allan Fels.
The ACCC also backed claims by Telstra's wholesale customers that they were often charged more for the access to the technology than what Telstra Retail sold services for, cutting out any chance of competition.
"Telstra seems to be favouring its own retail business while continuing to delay services needed by wholesale customers to enable them to compete with Telstra's retail business," Fels said.
The competition notice was originally to be issued in September 2001, but the ACCC gave Telstra a period of several months in which to correct its behaviour.
Telstra responded to the competition notice by suggesting that the interference of the ACCC will threaten its dealings with wholesale partners. Calling the action "unnecessary and unjustified", Telstra group managing director Bruce Akhurst said that drawn-out legal proceedings will make it harder for the telco to address any concerns among its partners.
The carrier also took the opportunity to question the credibility of the ACCC, citing a recent Productivity Commission report that claims the ACCC's use of competition notices lacks transparency and accountability.