The Electronic Communications Code
A recent Tribunal decision¹ has illustrated the need for parties to a dispute relating to the Electronic Communications Code to act reasonably or face the consequences.
The Code came into force on 28 December 2017 and provides a statutory basis whereby providers of communications services (such as landlines, mobile phones and internet) can place their apparatus on land or buildings owned by another person or organisation. The Code’s aim was to clarify the law and give operators clearer rights and greater flexibility for the greater public good given that these services are now regarded as essential.
The underlying dispute in this case related to the operator seeking to exercise a right to access a property to carry out a survey as to its suitability as a replacement site for communications equipment. The freeholder and the tenant of the building (a housing association) were concerned about the terms on which access was sought and the level of indemnity to be given. The underlying dispute was eventually resolved, but the freeholder and tenant sought payment of the costs they had incurred in relation to it (in excess of £100,000 in total). The Tribunal was critical in relation to the way in which they had behaved and ordered the operator to pay just £5,000 to each in costs, far less than what had been expended. The Tribunal made clear that the new Code regime was intended to facilitate the provision of communication services without delay and at limited cost. If any party acted in a way which frustrated those objectives then it must face the risk of such adverse costs consequences.
With approximately 18,000 telecommunications sites present in the UK and more being required to satisfy the need for more widespread and better communications coverage, disputes relating to the Code are likely to increase. However, this decision confirms that the Tribunal will expect landowners to act in a reasonable manner for the greater public interest rather than seeking to be obstructive or benefit their own position.
If you require any advice relating to the Code please contact Debbie Whiteley at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0161 819 4920.
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¹ Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Limited –v- (1) Central St Giles General Partner Limited and (2) Clarion Housing Association Limited  UK UT183