Thursday 18 July 2019

Eir's appeal over €43m USP cost gets fast-tracked

Challenge: Eir’s CEO Carolan Lennon
Challenge: Eir’s CEO Carolan Lennon

Tim Healy

An appeal by Eir against several decisions by the Commissioner for Communications Regulation (ComReg) concerning the firm's obligations to provide certain essential services has been admitted to the fast-track Commercial Court.

The appeal arises out of ComReg's decision not to provide funding for the costs Eir incurred while delivering its universal obligations as the State's designated Universal Service Provider (USP). The services include providing pay phones, fixed lines in isolated areas and directory services.

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In terms of financing the USP' obligations, Eir is entitled to seek funding by making an application to ComReg for the establishment of a sharing mechanism where the net costs can be shared among all providers of electronic communications networks and services in the state.

In 2014, Eir made several applications to compensate it for costs incurred due to its designation as a USP for each year from 2010 to 2015.

After a five-year delay, ComReg found in a decision published last April that while Eir incurred costs of €43m in meeting its obligations, such costs did not represent an unfair burden to Eir.

In its challenge, Eir - now headed by chief executive officer Carolan Lennon - claims ComReg made a number of significant errors in the manner in which it arrived at its decisions, and wants the court to set those decisions aside.

The alleged errors include that ComReg erred in its assessment of the extent to which Eir's obligations constitutes an unfair burden.

It further claims that ComReg's decisions are discriminatory, unfair and disproportionate and that the regulator had breached its statutory obligations.

The application for inclusion in the commercial list was made by Eircom Ltd, represented in court by Jonathan Newman SC. The application was unopposed.

Three Ireland Ltd also applied to the court to become a notice party to the action. The court also heard that Vodafone is considering if it is appropriate that it also becomes a notice party to the action.

The Judge adjourned the matter to next month.

Irish Independent

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