Mason Hayes sets EU precedent for Orange

Dublin firm Mason Hayes & Curran has won a landmark victory on behalf of Orange that may lead to a raft of corporate cases against government regulators in the EU.

UK telecoms giant Orange is thought to be the first company in the EU to take on a regulator for refusing it a licence of establishment.

Ailbhe Gilvarry, who acted for Orange, says: “To my knowledge, it is the first time a regulator has been taken on in the EU in respect of a launching appeal.

“Other companies are going to look at this decision. It happened in telecommunications, but it will affect electricity and other utilities.”

Mr Justice Macken held that Irish telecoms regulator Etain Doyle's decision to grant Irish-US consortium Meteor a licence instead of Orange was biased, unreasonable and that she unlawfully withheld how she reached her decision.

All the law firms acting in the case were Irish. A&L Goodbody advised the regulator. LK Shields represented Meteor.

Anthony Burke, head of commercial law at Mason Hayes, says: “The Licensing Directive says a regulator's decision must be objective, transparent and non-discriminatory. After this, aggrieved parties will probably examine their right to appeal regulators' decisions.”

Doyle says she will appeal. But Peter Quinn, chief operations officer at Meteor, says he has yet to decide. The company's costs are estimated at £2.5m.