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BT warned off Scoot's patch

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BT was told to stop a free offer linked to its Talking Pages by Oftel yesterday. The industry watchdog labelled the new call completion service on BT's directory search service "anti-competitive", according to a government statement. David Edmonds, Oftel director of telecommunications, ordered the offer to be withdrawn immediately. The service connects callers directly to the business they want to contact rather than just giving out the telephone number. The ruling followed a complaint by Scoot.com, the Web and telephone information service, which launched a similar service on 10 May. Its call completion service is also free to callers, but paid for by advertisers who pay a fee for every call put through to them. Charges vary depending on the advertiser's business, so a solicitor pays more than a clothes shop because the caller's business to the solicitor would be bigger. Two weeks after the Scoot launch, BT Talking Pages began offering the rival service free to advertisers for 12 months. Scoot said the offer was predatory and damaging to its business. "BT's free offer appears to be anti-competitive and could potentially be very damaging to Scott's business," Edmonds said. "I have ordered them to stop this service now until they can replace it with an offer that I am satisfied properly covers its costs." ®

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