[smh] The competition watchdog is seeking a $40 million penalty from Telstra for breaching its obligations under the Telecommunications Act and Trade Practices Act.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission wants to penalise Telstra at least $1 million each time it refused a competitor access to Telstra-controlled telephone exchanges in which the competitor wanted to install equipment to service broadband customers.
The legislation provides for fines of up to $10 million for each of the 27 contraventions cited but the commission is seeking smaller fines because Telstra admitted it mistakenly rejected applications.
Telstra has admitted it denied access at seven exchanges despite space being available. Conceding the mistakes, it claims junior staff were acting inappropriately rather than following official policy.
Justice John Middleton has been presiding over a hearing in the Federal Court in Melbourne to decide whether Telstra should be fined.
In the final submission to Justice Middleton, the commission's lawyers claim Telstra should be fined because it had ''a reckless disregard for its obligations'' under the Trade Practices Act and the Telecommunications Act.
The submission said Telstra had ''no commercial incentive to ensure that it complied diligently with its access obligations'' and criticised the management's ''antagonistic'' attitude to industry regulations.
A Telstra spokesman yesterday said it had since improved staff training and the processes for assessing telephone exchanges.
Telstra would lower broadband prices for small and medium businesses and increase connection speeds, it announced yesterday. Excess data charges would be halved to 4¢ a megabyte and capped at $400 a month.
Telstra faces $40m fine for denying rivals access