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AltaVista in High Court battle with British ISP

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Further details have emerged concerning The Free Internet Group's (TFIG) High Court claim against AltaVista for alleged breach of contract.

According to the claim issued at the High Court last week the two companies inked a three-year agreement on the 29th February 2000 for TFIG to provide "free" branded Net access for AltaVista in Britain.

The service was due to be launched officially the following day.

But according to the claim: "On and after 1st March 2000, [AltaVista] raised various queries with the TFIG as to technical matters and details relating to the Alta Vista Access Service."

TFIG maintains it dealt with all of AltaVista's technical concerns and "has been, and continues to be, ready and willing and able to provide the Alta Vista Free Access Service in accordance with the agreement."

On the 26th March 2000, AltaVista wrote to Christopher Whalen, the head of TFIG.

It said: "As you know, our team has had continuing problems with Free Internet Group regarding quality and technical issues. The individuals there have not been responsive and we now believe that they do not have either the necessary expertise or level of staffing required to offer a high-quality Internet access service. As a result our team has lost confidence that you are in a position to deliver. We asked for certain deliverables and responsiveness earlier this month and did not receive satisfactory responses in order to proceed. In accordance with...the service agreement, we are terminating the agreement."

The central plank of the legal action appears to be whether or not AltaVista was within its rights to walk away from a deal it had only signed days before. TFIG claims it was AltaVista who delayed the launch of the service and that TFIG carried out all the alterations and changes as requested by AltaVista.

No doubt this will be disputed by AltaVista.

TFIG claims to have lost profits from "advertising, sponsorship, premium rate telephone services, click revenue, registration and renewal fees, and other income" from the deal totalling £215 million over three years.

According to the claim, TFIG wants AltaVista to honour the contract and to provide the names and details of all those who registered for the service, believed to be around a million people. TFIG claims this was part of a registration process jointly owned by the two companies.

The British ISP is also looking to recover $15,000 for the "cost of the acquisition of a mail server".

It is also seeking damages.

No one from AltaVista was available for comment by press time. ®

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