The Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology has misused its market power for anti-competitive purposes, according to a statement of claim filed in the Federal Court, Melbourne, by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission*.

The ACCC has alleged that the Bureau breached section 46 of the Trade Practices Act because it refused to supply basic meteorological information to a competitor for the purpose of deterring the entry of that competitor into the market for enhanced meteorological services. It is also alleged that the Bureau provided specialised meteorological services on a non-commercial basis for the purpose of deterring competitive conduct.

The ACCC alleges that there is a market for the provision of specialised meteorological services and that the Bureau operates in this market in competition with a number of private companies. Services which fall within this market include the provision of tailored specialised graphics packages for use by pay TV and newspaper customers.

These services are distinct from the Bureau's Basic Service which includes basic forecasts and warnings, and which the Bureau provides free to the Australian public.

In late 1994, the New Zealand-based MetService International entered the Australian market for the supply of colour weather graphics packages to newspaper customers. This service involves the creation of a colour template tailored to the requirements of the newspaper. The template is updated daily with meteorological data and digitally transmitted to the newspaper. When MetService entered the market there was no equivalent service available.

The Bureau had previously stated in its Annual Report (1993-1994) and official 1995 calendar that specialised newspaper graphics services of this type would be provided by the Bureau through its commercial Special Services Unit. Following the entry of MetService into the Australian market however, it is alleged that the Bureau offered these specialised services to newspaper customers free of charge. It is alleged that the Bureau has at all times refused to supply meteorological information to MetService to enable the company to compile its newspaper service. It is alleged that the Bureau supplies meteorological information to a number of other private competitors, including WeatherNews Pty Ltd which supplies meteorological graphics services to pay-TV customers.

The ACCC alleges that these actions were designed to prevent MetService from engaging in competitive conduct in the market.

The ACCC is seeking a mandatory injunction that the Bureau provide information to MetService and an injunction restraining the Bureau from supplying its specialised service s other than on commercial terms.

A directions hearing will be held on 13 February 1996.