BT appeals ‘dirty tricks’ banning order

'Fight, fight, fight, fight, fight...'

BT has lodged a formal appeal against a ruling ordering the monster telco to stop using "dirty tricks" to persuade customers from switching phone providers.

In November, telecoms regulator Oftel upheld a complaint from Thus and Broadsystem Ventures Ltd preventing BT from using information about the transfer of customers to alternative telecoms suppliers such as One.Tel, Tiscali and Tele2.

Oftel found that BT - which was calling customers who had decided to move to rival operators - was using this information to try to convince punters to stay with the UK's dominant telco.

At the time, Oftel said: "Until now, BT has passed this [transfer] information to its marketing department, which has then contacted the customer to try and persuade them to stay with BT. Oftel has today ordered BT to stop carrying out this practice, on the grounds that it is forbidden under the new EU Access and Interconnection Directive that came into force in the UK in July 2003."

But BT vowed to appeal the decision and has now formally lodged its case with the Competition Appeals Tribunal (CAT), the UK's highest specialist competition law court. Details of the appeal have just been published on the CAT Web site.

BT wants the CAT to overturn the order and, if successful, ensure that new communications regulator Ofcom picks up the tab for the cost of its appeal.

BT has already condemned Oftel's move as an "ill-conceived move that will cause widespread confusion for customers". It warned that unless BT is able to contact customers, it could open the floodgates for 'slamming', a process where customers are switched phone providers without their knowledge or consent.

A BT spokesman told El Reg: "Oftel's ill-conceived order makes no sense for the customer. We're hopeful that the tribunal will see sense."

Thus - which described BT as using "dirty tricks" - remains confident that the CAT will uphold Oftel's decision. ®

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