Eircom challenges reduced wholesale prices imposed by ComReg

Firm claims new structure for rivals accessing broadband network set to cost it millions

Eircom Ltd is asking the High Court to place a stay on a regulator-imposed change to the wholesale price it can charge to other providers for access to its broadband network.

Eircom, which claims the new price structure will cost it millions, is seeking the stay pending the outcome of the hearing of its appeal against last December’s decision of communications regulator ComReg to impose the change.

In its appeal it wants the court to set aside that December 2021 decision, which followed consultations with all providers, or that it be reconsidered in accordance with the court’s judgment on the matter.

The new pricing regime is due to come into operation on March 1st.

Eircom says that, while it is not possible to say exactly what the value of this change will be, it will have a significant financial impact on the company running into millions.

Sky Ireland and Vodafone Ireland have been joined as notice parties to the case.

Opening the application for a stay, Paul Sreenan SC, with Joe Jeffers, for Eircom said his side had offered an undertaking, if a stay was agreed, to reimburse other providers the price difference from when the change is due to come into force until a decision in the main appeal, depending on the outcome.

Price regime

That would go a long way to addressing the balance of justice, namely the injustice to Eircom if a stay is refused, he said. He argued the previous price regime should be maintained until the appeal is fully heard.

The court heard it will be possible to hear the main case in July due to its urgency.

Declan McGrath SC, for ComReg, said it was not open to his client to grant a stay as this could only be done by the court. Eircom, by seeking a stay, was in fact seeking to alter the status quo because this price change process was already in the pipeline.

ComReg accepts there will be financial loss to Eircom but this was in circumstances where that loss “actually represents an over-recovery” by the company of its costs, he said. Eircom, as significant market power, is subject to regulations that oblige it to only charge wholesale prices that are tied to its actual costs and not anything beyond that, he said.

The hearing continues before Mr Justice Denis McDonald.