Telecoms watchdog Comreg is seeking to impose multi-million euro penalties on Eir over alleged failure to comply with its obligation to allow access to its network to other telecom providers, the Commercial Court heard.
The claim was made by Maurice Collins SC, for Eircom (now eir), when opposing an application by the Commission for Communications Regulations (Comreg) to have the case entered into the fast track commercial court list.
Paul Gallagher SC, for Comreg, said the case was entirely suitable for the commercial court because of its very significant implications for market place competition.
Mr Justice Brian McGovern said it was an appropriate case for the commercial list.
In its proceedings, Comreg alleges non-compliance by eir with a 2011 EU regulation governing access to the electronic communication networks and services.
It wants the court to order eir to pay a financial penalty, under those regulations, for the asserted breach of eir’s access obligation.
Under EU regulations, eir must provide reasonable access to other providers which request use of access products, services, features, or additional associated facilities in the markets which enable those provider to offer equivalents in the retail market to products offered by eir.
Mr Gallagher, in seeking to have the proceedings fast-tracked, said eir had claimed the case did not come within the rules for admission to the commercial list and also argued there was delay in bringing the action.
Mr Gallagher rejected both claims and said there was clear precedent for such cases in the past, including cases by eir itself.
Disputes claim of delay
He disputed the claims of delay and said a final decision to bring the case was only made at the end of June.
While it was true Comreg had said last November it would be bringing these proceedings, Comreg also had to determine the penalty and that involved a considerable amount of work, he said.
Mr Collins, for eir, said his client has issued separate proceedings challenging the validity of the EU Electronic Communications Networks and Service regulation under which Comreg was bringing its case. Eir believes its case should be heard in advance of the Commercial Court case by Comreg.
Comreg is a public authority with significant powers which is seeking to impose “quasi-criminal penalties and financial sanctions” on eir running into millions, he said.
Mr Collins said this case differed from other cases which had been admitted, in that Comreg is a public authority seeking to impose significant penalties on a private law entity such as eir.
Mr Justice Brian McGovern said Commercial Court rules give a very wide discretion in relation to admission of cases and he was going to exercise that discretion to admit the case to the list. He adjourned the matter for two weeks for further directions on how it should proceed.