Oftel considers new crackdown on BT

Oftel, the telecommunications regulator, is to clamp down on anti-competitive behaviour in the industry and may seek wider powers to prevent abuse of dominant market position by BT or any other company.

Don Cruickshank, director-general of Oftel, said yesterday that detailed regulation of the industry could only be reduced if he were confident that practices that could restrict competition could be controlled.

Launching Oftel's annual report, Mr Cruickshank said that companies hurt by anti-competitive behaviour have to wait too long for action and redress.

His remarks come amid mounting pressure from Mercury and other companies for the introduction of immediate sanctions - including fines to be imposed if a company abuses its market power.

Mr Cruickshank also said that emerging competition in the marketplace was not harming BT. "Quite the contrary. BT remains as profitable as ever and is becoming increasingly confident," he said. He went on to promise that in spite of opposition from BT, Oftel was determined to ensure that customers would be able to keep their numbers when switching from BT to another company.

The regulator said that the introduction of number portability was Oftel's "single most important aim" and that he hoped to see it widely available to customers by the end of the year.

Last week BT refused to accept amendments to its licence that are needed for number portability, and will as a result be referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. The company said that it supported the concept but could not accept Oftel's view that BT should bear the cost.

Mr Cruickshank said that he would start work this summer on a new price control regime to take effect in 1997 when the present cap - inflation minus 7.5 percentage points - expires.

He has angered BT by suggesting that there may in future be different price caps for different services. BT argues that the cap should be removed entirely to allow the market to dictate prices.

Separately, Oftel said it would waive payments called "access deficit contributions" which eight companies would otherwise have had to make to BT when using its network.

These are a special payment by BT's rivals aimed at helping to cover the losses incurred by the company in providing and maintaining local lines, estimated to be about £1.5bn a year.

The companies to be granted waivers until next year include Cambridge- based Ionica, Norweb, Scottish Power and Videotron. At present all companies except Mercury are exempt from paying access deficit contributions.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Services - City, London

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Service...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is the o...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions