Watchdog pledges to fight BT challenge

Don Cruickshank, the telecommunications regulator, yesterday promised to fight "tooth and nail" a legal challenge to his powers to be mounted by BT.

Mr Cruickshank was commenting on the dramatic events of Friday night, when the BT board finally agreed to Oftel's proposal to take on new powers to ban any behaviour the regulator believes will inhibit competition. The changes are linked to a new price formula for BT, which would restrict increases in domestic bills to 4.5 per cent below inflation until 2001, but exclude most businesses from controls for the first time.

BT said on Friday that it would accept Oftel's new powers, which the company insisted had been revised to meet its main concerns, but added that it would be seeking a judicial review to see whether the proposals were lawful. The BT statement described this move as "uncontentious".

However it was clear yesterday that relations between the two sides have not improved, despite the company's decision to accept the regulatory changes. Asked about the legal challenge, Mr Cruickshank said: "I think they're wrong to do so and they'll lose, but it's their privilege." He continued: "I'm going to fight them tooth and nail."

BT said the legal challenge was purely to clarify the situation. It will examine whether the regulator is exceeding his responsibilities by taking on extra powers. It will also question whether Oftel was right to link the regulatory condition with price controls.

Oftel also cast doubt on the significance of the concessions "won" by BT, which were announced after an eleventh hour meeting between Mr Cruickshank and BT's chief executive, Sir Peter Bonfield.

The anti-competitive powers will not come into force until December, later than originally planned. Oftel will also set up an advisory panel to examine disputes, though its rulings would not be binding.

Mr Cruickshank admitted the advisory panel was "bound to be a constraint" but insisited it did not amount to even a "semi-court of appeal." BT's main criticisim of the fair trading powers has been that they include no formal right of appeal against Oftel's decisions. Last year the BT chairman, Sir Iain Vallance, went as far as to describe the proposals as "extremely dangerous".

BT yesterday said the judicial review was purely to clarify the situation and would take place in the autumn. The company also wants the Government to change the law to include a right of appeal in Oftel's fair trading powers. BT said it hoped this would happen by the year-end, but analysts regard this timescale as optimistic.

Any changes to the law would be hit by the lack of Parliamentary time and the approaching General Election.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Recruitment Genius: Customer Relations Officer

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Jemma Gent: Project Coordinator

£12 - £15 Hourly Rate: Jemma Gent: In this role you will report to the Head of...

Recruitment Genius: Evening Administrator

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established early...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable