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Telecoms challenge FTC jurisdiction in Supreme Court

Published:Wednesday | January 25, 2012 | 1:00 AM

Barbara Gayle, Court Reporter

Telecommunications providers Digicel Jamaica Limited and Oceanic Digital have filed an application in the Supreme Court challenging the jurisdiction of the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) in its legal attempt to roll back the Digicel-Claro deal.

Digicel is seeking a separate trial for the court to decide whether the Fair Competition Act applies to the transactions effected by the agreement which is the subject of the proceedings.

It is also asking the court to decide whether the FTC has jurisdiction in relation to the transaction struck with the owners of Claro for the Jamaican assets.

The FTC has taken Digicel and Oceanic Digital Jamaica Limited, trading as Claro, to court over the acquisition.

The FTC is contending that the acquisition is likely to damage competition and stymie consumer benefits. FTC lawyer Delroy Beckford is seeking a declaration that the underlying agreement between Digicel and Claro will effectively lessen competition substantially in the telecommunications market, and that the agreement is, therefore, unenforceable under Section 17 of the Fair Competition Act 1993.

First hearing

Digicel and Oceanic filed the application last week Friday in the Supreme Court. The first hearing on whether there should be separate trials is set for January 31.

The two telecoms plan to argue that under the 2002 Civil Procedure Rules (CPR), the court may direct a separate trial of any issue. The companies cited Rule 26.1(2) (g) as the basis of their argument.

They contend that if issues identified are determined in their favour then it would dispose of the FTC's claim. The issues raise questions of law only.

The telecoms, who are being represented by attorney-at-law Georgia Gibson-Henlin, stated in court documents that it would serve the overriding objective and potentially save time, costs and the court's resources for the issues to be tried separately and first.

They will argue that Rule 27.2(8) of the CPR provides that the court may treat the first hearing as the trial of the claim if it considers that the action can be dealt with summarily.

The telecoms claim that the resolution of the issues will not require the adducing of any evidence, and can be disposed of based on legal submissions.

barbara.gayle@gleanerjm.com