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Even the EU thinks BT is a rip-off

Latest report recommends price ceilings for leased lines

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The European Commission has published a report recommending maximum charges for leased lines which backs industry-wide criticism that BT is overcharging companies.

Monopolistic suppliers are, due to a lack of competition in some European countries, grossly overcharging for their lines, and this in turn has greatly reduced the level of Internet use, the EC report concludes.

It then set a three-level ceiling on prices, based on the three cheapest EU companies. Needless to say, BT does not come out of it well. The report sets monthly ceilings of £50, £220 and £1,650 for 64Kbps, 2Mbps and 32Mbps leased lines respectively.

BT currently charges £158, £379 and £3,790.

A BT spokesman muttered something about the figures not accounting for discounts, exchange rates or inflation, but the report clearly highlights what UK companies have been saying for months.

Oftel was unable to comment at press time but will no doubt leap on the figures to put further pressure on BT. Oftel works in what a layman would view as a peculiar fashion. It will not actively force a company's hand but instead question the firm or await for a formal complaint.

The watchdog has been criticised in the past when reviews of BT's pricing have consistently decided nothing is amiss. However the EU report is clearly ammunition in the battle to reduce the cost of phone lines to more reasonable levels.

Oftel will reveal its own report on leased lines on Monday, with another two reports on ADSL and local loop expected the following day. ®

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