Regina v Director General of Telecommunications, Ex P Cellcom Ltd and others: QBD 7 Dec 1998

The Director General of Telecommunications can quite properly use his powers and discretion to ensure competition in telecommunications by the granting and withholding of licences. He may take account of economic factors in making such a decision. Section 3 draws a distinction between ‘means’ (namely how the demand is to be met) and ‘ends’ (the satisfaction of reasonable demands) and that as a matter of language, whilst the Director is expressly made the arbiter of the means to the end, he is not so made the arbiter of the ends. Section 3 recognises that there is a public interest in reasonable demands for telecommunication services being met and the court is intended to be the guardian of that public interest. The exercise in deciding whether a demand is reasonable or not requires no sophisticated exercise necessitating the Director’s experience, expertise and fund of knowledge of this and other markets. The court is well equipped and experienced in deciding questions of reasonableness. The duty of the Director was to exercise his functions in the manner which ‘he considers best calculated to secure . . such telecommunications services as satisfy all reasonable demands for them . . ‘ and ‘Where the Act has conferred the decision making and function on the Director, it is for him, and him alone, to consider the economic arguments, weigh the compelling considerations and arrive at a judgment. The . applicants have no right of appeal; in these judicial review proceedings so long as he directs himself correctly in law, his decision may only be challenged on Wedensbury grounds. The court must be astute to avoid the. danger of substituting its views for the decision maker and of contradicting (as in this case) a conscientious decision maker acting in good faith and with knowledge of all the facts. ‘ and ‘If (as I have stated)the court should be very ‘slow to impugn decisions of fact made by an expert and experienced decision maker, it must surely be even slower to impugn his educated prophesises and predictions for the future.’


Lightman J


Times 07-Dec-1998, Gazette 10-Feb-1999, [1999] ECC 314


Telecommunications Act 1984 3

Cited by:

CitedRegina on the Application of T-Mobile (Uk) Ltd, Vodafone Ltd, Orange Personal Communication Services Ltd v The Competition Commission, the Director-General of Telecommunications Admn 27-Jun-2003
The applicants sought to challenge a proposed scheme regulating the prices of telephone calls.
Held: The principle objection was to termination charges, charges on calls between networks. The present charges were greater than the actual cost, . .
CitedOffice of Fair Trading and others v IBA Health Limited CA 19-Feb-2004
The OFT had considered whether it was necessary to refer a merger between two companies to the Competition Commission, and decided against. The Competition Appeal Tribunal held that the proposed merger should have been referred. The OFT and parties . .
CitedWildman, Regina (on the Application of) v The Office of Communications Admn 25-Jul-2005
The claimant sought judicial review of an order quashing the decision of the Office of Communications to refuse a radio licence.
Held: The court should be very cautious before quashing a decision as to the allocation of broadcasting licences. . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Commercial, Judicial Review, Licensing

Updated: 09 April 2022; Ref: scu.85227