Telstra loses phone booth court appeal

The High Court of Australia has refused an application by Telstra to challenge the cities of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane in relation to the rollout of their “super-sized” phone booths.

The November 2020 decision of the Federal Court preventing the telco giant from installing “next generation” payphones without planning permission will stand. Telstra will now be required to pay the legal costs of the case and the failed application to the High Court. 

Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said that the councils argued that Telstra had intended to use the facilities to display third party commercial advertising once they were installed.

“The footpaths of Australia’s cities are precious, and this is a win for the millions of pedestrians who use them,” Cr Reece said. 

“It was a truly David and Goliath battle and we’re proud of this victory on behalf of Australia’s cities.”

“All along we have maintained that the supersized phone booths are designed to generate advertising revenue instead of providing a community service – they were billboards masquerading as payphones.”

“We don’t want people to be bombarded with oversized and intrusive commercial advertising on public infrastructure.”

“Telstra is a major employer in the City of Melbourne and makes a very valuable ongoing contribution to our city.”

“We will now work with Telstra on a coordinated plan for the installation of the next generation of phone boxes in the most appropriate places.”

At 2.7 metres high and 1.2 metres wide, the new payphone structures are 600mm taller and 400mm wider than the older phone booths. They are also fitted with 75-inch LCD screens – which are 60 per cent larger than the previous signage displays – and which are programmed to show up to four advertisements per minute.

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