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Telco trio attack BT 'monopoly' from new direction

Competition Act rolled up ready to fire
Written by Ron Coates, Contributor

Competition Act rolled up ready to fire

Telcos Energis, Tiscali and Your Communications have shifted the battle against BT's broadband 'monopoly' to competition rules. The three have withdrawn their complaint to Oftel under the Telecommunications Act and resubmitted it under the Competition Act to gain what they hope is a tactical and strategic advantage. The companies have been attacking what they call a 'margin squeeze' produced by price cuts on IPStream and DataStream products. They claim that this prevents them fully developing more competitive broadband products. Tiscali claims BT's 'anti-competitive' tactics include recent unequal price reductions for IPStream and DataStream (£2 versus 70p), discount schemes that favour IPStream (installation charges cut by half to £25) and discrimination on contract terms (minimum contract of one month for IPStream and three months for DataStream). Telcos can use DataStream to sell ISPs different broadband services to those available from BT Wholesale, which offers services based on its IPStream product. Sergio Cellini, Tiscali UK CEO, said in a statement: "Without a viable and competitive DataStream product, BT resumes its position as a monopoly in the broadband market – which is a disaster for the industry, businesses and the consumer." An Energis spokesman pointed out that any decision by Oftel under the Telecommunications Act could only be reviewed in the High Court, which could only determine if the regulator had acted in a lawful mannner. Under the Competition Act, the decision itself could be reviewed on its merits – to see if it was the right decision. Energis wants DataStream priced in a transparent manner. It wants the regulator to establish the true cost of providing the service and then adding a markup to BT – establishing a level playing field. A BT spokesman said that the company would cooperate fully with any investigation or tribunal, when one was established, and strongly denied it had acted in an anti-competitive manner. An Oftel spokesman said that the regulator was considering the case.
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