The case dates back to December 1997 when Optus took Telstra to the Court over alleged misuse of confidential company data by the incumbent telco.
As a wholesale access customer, Optus was using Telstra’s telecommunications infrastructure to service its own clients.
When Optus traffic passed through Telstra’s network the latter had access to information relating to the traffic including how many telephone calls were made, for how long and how much an Optus customer would be billed for calls.
Optus accused Telstra of using such traffic information for marketing and promotional purposes without permission since 1995. The data was allegedly published in ‘market share reports’ compiled by Telstra.
The issue was supposedly resolved in 2009 when presiding judge, Justice Edmond, ruled Telstra had “breached the relevant provisions of the Access Agreement and is liable to Optus for such breaches”.
All that needed to be settled was the amount of compensation to be paid by Telstra to Optus.
But the process has been stalled time and time again in the way of discovery document requests. There is currently an ongoing dispute regarding the scope and categories of discovery each party should give each other.
Discovery refers to the process where each party can gather information from each other in a number of forms including emails, faxes and documents.
Justice Edmond noted the case has been dragged out for 13 years and some of the judges that presided over this dispute had either left the Federal Court or has since died.
“The current dispute exemplifies the reasons why the proceedings has had such a protracted life. First, the resolve of each party to make it as difficult as possible for the other to make out its case or to defend the case put against it; and second, the fact both parties can afford to engage in such conduct by reason of their very deep pockets,” Justice Edmond said.
Both parties are expected to return to Court briefly on May 27 and to notify Justice Edmond as to whether they have reached an agreement on the scope of discovery.