Telkom still guilty of anti-competitive behaviour and should be made to pay.

Web Africa CEO, Tim Wyatt-Gunning, comments on the Telkom Competition Tribunal hearings.

As former joint CEO of Storm, I was part of the VANS group which initially took the complaint to the Competition Commission, so I had good insight into the anti-competitive practices which Telkom used. Almost a decade later, in my new capacity as CEO of Web Africa, I can categorically say that they are still up to their old tricks, albeit in a less damaging manner.

It is eight years since the VANS companies lodged a claim against Telkom. At the time, their routine failure to assist VANS providers and to compete unfairly on pricing had a material impact on all of our businesses, often with the result that our customers were forced either to remain with Telkom or revert back to Telkom.

Telkom has argued that the behaviour of which it stands accused no longer occurs and that the case is less relevant on account of the amount of time that has elapsed since the complaint was first brought.

I must point out that this is not accurate. We have lodged several objections recently to our Telkom Account Managers regarding Telkom sales agents approaching customers who are moving over to us from other ISPs with ‘special offers’.  While there is clearly a lot more separation between wholesale and retail than there was in 2003, we still believe Telkom Retail is not treated at a full arm’s length alongside other wholesale customers.

Looking forward, I want to see the penalty match the crime and not to be lightened because ‘things have moved on’. Uncompetitive practices over the years have had a knock on effect today.  In the absence of a punchy regulator, Telkom has dragged its feet allowing industry players to find themselves in the ludicrous position where, today, Telkom represents around 80% of our network cost base.

A skewed, anti-competitive landscape continues to prejudice the retail price of broadband. This is not in the best interest of the consumer and certainly not in the best interest of an economy where business input costs, like telecommunications, remain unreasonably high and continue to see this country remain uncompetitive.