SA’S ORION HEAD-TO-HEAD WITH TELKOM OVER UNFAIR COMPETION

Telecoms

The complex legal drama that is currently taking place, where Orion Telecom has accused Telkom of abusing its monopoly position to unfairly target Orion’s clients and lure them away, has undergone a further twist.

The case initially came about after two of Orion’s major clients, Standard Bank and Edgars, chose not to renew their contracts, because Telkom "made them an offer which they could not refuse".

He says Telkom has clearly used its position as a public utility to gain the custom of Orion’s customers, as no other inducement would effectively preclude Orion from operating within the cellular telephony market.

While the investigation into anti-competitive behaviour by the Competition Commission is under way, Orion sought an interdict granting interim relief and requested copies of the deals Telkom signed with the clients as evidence, but the monopoly claimed these were confidential and - when the Competition Tribunal ordered it to hand over the documents - Telkom chose to appeal against this decision.

Tredoux says: "It is ironic that after 10 years of a new constitutional dispensation, a public utility still manages to keep contracts secret from the general public."

The date for the appeal has been set for 14 June, but Tredoux claims that Orion cannot afford to wait that long simply for an appeal to be heard.

"Thus, without prejudicing this particular process, we are moving ahead with the interdict in the meantime, and hope to have it heard within the next couple of weeks or so," he says. It is necessary to proceed in this manner, as Telkom appears to have been chasing seven or eight of our other major clients in the meantime. Thus we want the interdict heard as soon as possible, because all we are trying to say is that they cannot be allowed to pursue our customers in this manner while this process is still under way."

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