Domestic users 'fared worst in BT price cuts'

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Residential telephone customers have fared much worse than business in price cuts since BT was privatised, according to a report by the National Audit Office (NAO), writes Mary Fagan.

The NAO has called on Oftel, the industry regulator, to examine the effect of BT price changes on ordinary customers and the link between quality of service and how much BT can charge.

The NAO report, which looks at Oftel's record on consumer protection, shows that since 1984 charges for long distance calls at peak and standard rates, those used most by business, have fallen by 61 per cent in real terms. At cheap rate, when most domestic consumers call, long distance charges have come down by 23-28 per cent, while the price of a local call has fallen by only 15 per cent.

In the first report by one watchdog on another, the NAO criticised Oftel for failing to take a tough enough approach on making companies advertise how much a service costs. One of the main areas of concern was premium rate services.

BT said the report's recommendations were 'rather superficial' and that much of the data used dated back to 1991.