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Oftel and Freeserve competition row rumbles on

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There are few signs that Oftel and Freeserve are about to kiss and make up following a recent legal spat that saw both sides claiming victory.

Industry insiders claim Oftel is furious with Freeserve over the aggressive way it challenged the regulator's rulings on broadband at the Competition Appeals Tribunal (CAT).

Yesterday, Oftel boss, David Edmonds, wrote to the FT insisting that, contrary to some reports, last week's ruling by the competition commission was not a defeat for Oftel.

His comments followed the CAT's decision to order Oftel to re-investigate Freeserve's allegation that BT was engaged in predatory pricing for broadband.

In the letter to the financial paper Mr Edmonds made it clear that the CAT had "fully upheld [three out of four of] Oftel's decisions".

And he insisted that a report which described last week's decision as a "defeat" and "embarrassment" for Oftel was "unjustified".

However, in a sign that tensions still remain high between Oftel and the UK's biggest ISP, Freeserve General Counsel, David Melville, said today that he is "rather bemused" that Mr Edmonds feels the need to be drawn into "this kind of dialogue".

Commenting on Mr Edmonds' letter to the FT Mr Melville said: "The most important part of the case as far as were concerned was predatory pricing where Oftel's procedures were found to be completely deficient - so much so the court quashed that part of the decision and required the Director General (DG) Telecoms to look into that matter again with an "open mind" (a phrase which came from the court not David Edmonds) and tight timescale.

"More than a year has passed since Freeserve launched its complaint and instead of crowing about victory, we wish the DG would start to take our complaint seriously and we hope that his early claim to victory means that he is not going to approach the issue of predatory pricing with anything other than a truly open mind," he said. ®

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