BT in new Oftel charges dispute

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The Independent Online
MARY FAGAN

Industrial Correspondent

A bitter row has erupted between BT and the industry watchdog, Oftel, over the amount the company should charge other companies that need to use its wires.

Oftel wants charges reduced by 35 per cent this year at a cost to BT of tens of millions of pounds but the company says the cut should be much less and attacked the regulator for trying to change the rules.

Don Cruickshank, director general of Oftel, accused BT of wrongly allocating costs in calculating what its rivals must pay. In a statement issued yesterday, he said: "Other operators ought not to have to contribute, through interconnection charges, to BT's substantial redundancy costs, vacant accommodation, chairman's office and publicity costs [which include the costs of campaigns to win back customers from other operators)]."

Mr Cruickshank said that BT's refusal to agree the relevant costs was "disappointing" but hoped to resolve the issue early in the new year. He said: "It is clear that there is a heavier burden of proof on Oftel to show why these costs should be excluded and where they should properly fall than we had previously thought."

A spokesman for BT said: "This is about whether Don Cruickshank should be free to ignore the rules in BT's licence which he finds inconvenient or not to his taste." He denied BT was trying to delay a determination of this year's charges.

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