Australia’s competition watchdog has patched its website content management system (CMS) and apologised, after publishing its decision on TPG’s proposed merger with Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) before it was meant to be made public.
In a somewhat unprecedented move, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released a statement on 16 May explaining how it accidentally published its rejection of the proposed TPG-VHA Australia merger a day before it was expected to reveal its decision.
“We apologise unreservedly for this unfortunate and serious incident,” ACCC chief operating officer Rayne de Gruchy said.
“We have thoroughly reviewed all of the processes and information technology systems that led to this error, and we want to assure our stakeholders this incident will not be repeated,” she said.
The publication of the decision to reject the merger sent the share price of both TPG and VHA’s 50 percent stakeholder Hutchison Telecommunications tumbling.
The ACCC said it had conducted a full investigation into the incident and claims that a fault in its website CMS, which has now been rectified thanks to a software patch, was to blame.
According to the regulator, when the information relating to the merger was being put into the back end of the mergers register, a third-party user was trying to access the existing webpage at the same moment as it was being updated.
“Instead of the new information being treated as draft content requiring internal approval, the flaw meant the content was live for eight minutes,” the ACCC said in its statement.
The information went live just before 3PM, giving the ACCC the opportunity to quickly issue a statement confirming the merger decision to both the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) before the end of the trading day.
The ACCC’s rejection of the merger, which could effectively put an end to TPG’s ongoing efforts to become a major player in the country’s mobile telco market, saw VHA and TPG move to launch legal action against the regulator over the decision.
VHA CEO Iñaki Berroeta said on 9 May that the company remains firmly committed to the merger.
“VHA respects the ACCC process, but we believe the merger with TPG will bring very real benefits to consumers. We have therefore decided that VHA should, together with TPG, pursue approval of the merger through the Federal Court,” said Berroeta.
The merger agreement between VHA and TPG has been extended to 31 August 2020 to allow the legal proceedings to run their course before the proposed deal lapses.