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
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Digital Optimisation Executive - Marketing

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's fastest growing, multi...

Recruitment Genius: Financial Reporting Manager

£70000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Financial Reporting Manager i...

Recruitment Genius: Payments Operations Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They win lots of awards for the...

Recruitment Genius: Telephone Debt Negotiator

£13500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This nationwide enforcement com...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific