TELECOMMUNICATIONS FIRM Digicel has accused the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) of being "unconstitutional" and setting itself up as "judge, jury and executioner".
The telecoms provider declared in a release on Tuesday said the utilities regulator's actions had forced its decision to file an application last Wednesday in the Supreme Court seeking leave to proceed with a claim for judicial review of the OUR's recent determination on interim mobile termination rates.
Abuse of newly acquired power
On June 4, the OUR, using its newly acquired power to set termination rates, mandated that come July 15 cross-network rates should fall to $5.00 per minute, while a long-term formula is worked out to determine the rates.
Digicel is claiming that such a move was contrary to the common- law right of natural justice since, among other things, the OUR has denied Digicel of its rights and legitimate expectation that the OUR adhere to due process and procedural fairness when making determinations.
The company noted that while it was supportive of constructive change, any reforms introduced in the telecoms sector need to follow due process and comply with the Constitution of Jamaica.
In its filing, Digicel is also arguing that the OUR does not have the power to set interconnection rates, despite the fact that it was an Act of Parliament that granted the regulator such power.
In the release, Richard Fraser, head of legal and regulatory affairs for Digicel Jamaica, said "The unfettered powers granted to the regulator are of extreme concern given that they effectively install the OUR as judge, jury and executioner. The OUR's action in terms of setting interim mobile termination rates with no regard for due process and procedural fairness cannot go unchallenged, as the medium and long-term effects of actions like these will be detrimental to the telecoms industry and to the wider Jamaican economy."
Digicel also noted that it was "extremely concerned" that the first action of the OUR was to reduce international mobile termination rates which has "no benefit at all for Jamaica".
THE EFFECT ON THE ECONOMY
The telecommunications company said this change would be "very costly to the country, a view which Digicel, LIME and Flow are in full agreement as a matter of public record."
According to the release: "This move by the OUR will deprive local telecoms operators and the Jamaican economy of much-needed revenues and will have the impact of lowering investment in this vibrant sector, making job creation even more difficult at this critical time."
However, LIME on Tuesday declared that it would join OUR in any defence it may mount against Digicel as an affected party.
Last week, LIME announced drastic cuts to its call rates based on the OUR mandate.