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BT DSL ‘anti-competitive’ – Freeserve

'Orchestrated campaign of anti-competitive behaviour'

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Freeserve has launched a stinging attack against BT claiming the monster telco is running an "orchestrated campaign of anti-competitive behaviour".

The UK's largest ISP has called on telecoms regulator Oftel to investigate allegations that BT is attempting to stifle competition in a bid to become the dominant player for retail DSL services.

It's called on Oftel to force BT to cease all cross-marketing activity with BTopenworld immediately.

In a letter to Oftel Freeserve claims BTopenworld - which should operate at arms length from the rest of BT - must have had prior knowledge of recent cuts in the wholesale cost of DSL.

Freeserve claims that shortly after BT announced that it intended to reduce the wholesale DSL price to £14.75 per month, BTopenworld released plans to launch a £10 million advertising campaign.

Freeserve alleges that BTopenworld also had in place a number of other arrangements concerning the marketing of its DSL service.

Said Freeserve: "These announcements and activities demonstrate that BTopenworld must have received advanced notification of the wholesale price cuts with a view to positioning themselves within the market, ahead of the competition."

John Pluthero, chief exec of Freeserve, added: "The 'Chinese walls' that are supposed to exist between BT Wholesale and BTopenworld may be fooling Oftel. But to the rest of us who understand the lead times needed to bring a new product to market it's obvious those walls
are wafer thin.

"There's now a realistic hope that broadband will at last begin to take off this year in the UK and Freeserve will play a big part in this; what must not be allowed to happen is to hand that market to BT through flimsy regulation of the incumbent's anti-competitive behaviour." he said.

BTopenworld moved quickly to rebuff the allegations. A spokesman for BT's mass market ISP said Freeserve was "talking nonsense".

"We vigorously deny these allegations," he said.

Officials from Oftel have received the complaint and are due to meet with Freeserve shortly. ®

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