Second Ofcom Bulldog investigation unlikely

Ofcom appears unwilling to launch a new investigation into Bulldog's customer services, despite reports of continuing problems. Is an appeal to an arbitration body the answer?

Some Bulldog users are continuing to have billing problems with the soon-to-be-sold Internet service provider (ISP), but a resurrection of Ofcom's investigation into the company seems unlikely.

Recent comments on user forums indicate that Bulldog is continuing to bill "incorrect and non-existent accounts", less than a year after Ofcom gave Bulldog the all-clear over such transgressions.

One user even contacted ZDNet UK to suggest that Bulldog's domestic customers — now for sale — "have long been a pawn in Bulldog's ultimate game, ever since Bulldog realised that it was not going to crack the domestic market and would be better served writing off its investment in that sector and instead leveraging its investment in loop unbundling by becoming a wholesale broadband supplier to its erstwhile competitors".

He also claimed that Bulldog was "spending as little as possible" on servicing customers' accounts, in order to maximise the sell-on value of the company.

A spokeswoman for Bulldog denied these claims, telling ZDNet UK that customer services had not changed since Cable & Wireless decided it was selling Bulldog's customer base.

"We are just as committed to our customers as we've always been," she said on Thursday, adding: "There are no complaints that are not resolved [although] some take slightly longer than others due to the complexity of the issue."

She also pleaded with dissatisfied Bulldog customers to follow the complaints procedure as detailed on the company's Web site.

Last year, Ofcom launched an investigation into Bulldog after hundreds of irate users lobbied the watchdog to take action over the company's failure to deliver an acceptable service.

An Ofcom spokesperson told ZDNet UK that the regulator "has continued dialogue with Bulldog management since closing [its] formal investigation into Bulldog last year" but said this was part of "regular contact with industry". He refused to give further details as the discussions "have taken place on a commercially confidential basis".

He also denied there was a "trigger point" in terms of numbers of complaints where Ofcom would reopen its investigation into Bulldog, saying: "Ofcom assesses a number of factors to determine whether or not an investigation is warranted beyond the number of complaints received on a given company".

However, the Ofcom spokesperson assured consumers that the regulator does "invite calls to our contact centre and we will look at every complaint on its merit and when we decide that something warrants investigation in more detail we will do so".

Short of a new investigation by Ofcom, the only routes left available to those Bulldog complainants dissatisfied with the ISP's response are through CISAS, the Communications and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme, or Otelo, the Telecommunications Ombudsman.

Unlike Ofcom, these services deal with individual complaints. CISAS has previously provided resolution for various Bulldog-related cases.