Ofcom drops Bulldog probe - for now

Ofcom has dropped its investigation into Bulldog after the Cable & Wireless subsidiary promised to clean up its act

After convincing Ofcom that it had changed its ways, Bulldog escaped any sanctions over its treatment of customers when the regulator dropped its investigation on Wednesday.

The investigation came about after widespread complaints from many of the Cable & Wireless subsidiary's customers who were unhappy at the poor levels of service and customer support they has experienced.

Bulldog's failings were particularly worrying as it was one of the few operators to use local-loop unbundling to offer its own services, rather than simply reselling BT's wholesale offerings. Bulldog has blamed BT for some of its problems, claiming that BT had been struggling to hand over control of telephone lines.

Ofcom has upheld many of the complaints and set out a list of conditions for Bulldog to fulfil in order for the investigation to be dropped on a permanent basis. These include the requirement for Bulldog to provide details of "processes to credit (in various forms) individual customers accounts" and "provision of one month's free voice line rental to all existing customers who were customers of Bulldog's double play' (voice and Internet access) services for the month of July 2005", the month most complaints arose. According to Ofcom, most of Bulldog customers are expected to receive this credit next month.

In addition, Bulldog has to provide monthly reports for six months on "seven specific metrics relating to customer service and billing issues", the regulator said..

In an official statement, Bulldog chief executive, Emanuele Angelidis said the company welcomed Ofcom's decision to close the investigation. "We appreciate Ofcom's efforts to conduct the review in such a rigorous, robust and thorough manner," he said.

"We regret the customer support issues that occurred during summer 2005, which have been addressed. We have implemented a wide range of measures to ensure that we are now able to deliver and maintain a high level of customer satisfaction."

Almost 30 customers have posted comments on ZDNet UK articles in recent weeks complaining about their experiences with Bulldog.

The most common complaints from Bulldog customers have been to do with technical problems; either the service wasn't delivered on time, or didn't work properly, if at all.

Readers have also condemned Bulldog's customer service. A typical gripe is that the technical support telephone number was either engaged or forced users to wait for an unreasonably long time.

"My experience with Bulldog over the past couple of months has left me deeply frustrated," said one IT manager. He ordered Bulldog's 4Mbps broadband product, but found two months later that his telephone line couldn't actually support more than 2Mbps.

"This is something they should have picked up on day one. They won't give me a 2Mbps connection. I'm totally appalled at the whole situation. I wouldn't recommend Bulldog to anyone," the IT manager added.