The Competition Commission has entered into talks with Telkom with a view potentially to resolving a second broad-ranging investigation against the fixed-line operator outside of the process of formal competition hearings.
The move comes just months after the Competition Tribunal imposed a R449m fine on Telkom related to a previous investigation that ultimately found the operator guilty of anticompetitive behaviour dating back to the early part of last decade.
Both Telkom and the commission have taken the tribunal to the competition appeal court — the former wants the fine reduced while the latter argues that a bigger fine should have been imposed by the tribunal. The commission had originally sought a fine in the region of R3,5bn.
Now, Competition Commission head Shan Ramburuth tells TechCentral that the regulatory body has entered into discussions with Telkom with a view potentially to avoiding another lengthy process related to a second broad antitrust case against the operator. The first case has dragged on for more than 10 years, in part because Telkom challenged the commission’s jurisdiction.
The second case is set to be heard by the tribunal later this year and contains similar complaints to the first case but deals with a different period of alleged anticompetitive abuses.
Ramburuth says the parties have been speaking only for about two weeks and so it’s too early to know where the talks will lead. However, he says that both parties’ applications to the competition appeal court regarding the first case will form part of their discussions.
Telkom isn’t commenting on the latest developments. CEO Nombulelo Moholi says only that the telecoms group is “always willing to settle any matter if it is in the company’s best interests to do so”.
“Telkom and the commission are currently engaged in discussions regarding these matters, but as these discussions are of a sensitive nature, Telkom is not at liberty to comment on them in a public forum,” Moholi tells TechCentral.
The principal complainants in the second case are the Internet Service Providers’ Association, Dimension Data division Internet Solutions, Naspers-owned Internet service provider MWeb, and the business services division of mobile network operator MTN.
Internet Solutions legal manager Marc Furman says his company has not been advised of any settlement discussions with Telkom.
“As one of the complainants, Internet Solutions remains engaged in working with the commission towards a fair and equitable resolution of the complaint process in a way that addresses the underlying behaviour of Telkom that gave rise to the complaint,” says Furman.
However, he adds that he’d hope that if settlement discussions do take place that the complainants to the case are allowed to make contributions before any final deal is reached. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media