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Directory enquiries (DQ) outfit - The Number - is to cough up £40,000 in an out of court settlement after being accused of ripping off a BT ad last year.

The BT ad - in the form of a "Public Notice" - told readers that the telco was changing its 192 DQ number to 118 500.

The next day, The Number - which was busy plugging its new service ahead of the opening up of the DQ market in the summer - mimicked the ad by using the same design to plug its own service.

BT got the hump because it maintained that The Number ripped off its ad. The dispute between the two companies was finally resolved last week without making it to court.

As part of the settlement, The Number is paying BT £10,000 which the monster telco will donate to charity. Telephone counselling service, ChildLine, will get some of the cash, while the rest will be split between local charities.

The Number is also coughing up £30,000 to cover BT's legal costs.

A BT spokesman told The Register: "They took our creative approach and changed the wording to suit their message.

"I think it was irresponsible and a dangerous precedent. It is indicative of how they operate. It shows the lengths they will go to get their message across," he said.

William Ostrom, spokesman for The Number told The Register: "What a sad and lonely company BT must be.

"We'd like to point out that BT's original advert was banned because BT had no right to issue a Public Notice about 192 deregulation. It even shamelessly only promoted their own service - it was impossibly biased, and they tried and failed to get away with a
similar stunt with their phone books.

"Legally, it was OFTEL's job to issue public notices to ensure fair representation. Of course, we broke the same rule by parodying BT to point up the injustice, and we both paid up the fines levied by the regulator.

"It is typical of BT to then send in their legal 'Heavies' to squeeze a small company just 1 per cent of the size of BT for a bit of extra cash.

"We tried to persuade them to donate the full £40,000 to charity, but they refused and kept £30,000 for themselves. Got your number!" he said.

[The Number has since issued an "unreserved apology to BT" over an "incorrect" comment made in its statement. That apology can be found here.]

Yesterday, The Number - famous for its ads featuring two moustachioed 1970s-style runners - received a ticking-off from the communications regulator for using the image of former British athlete David Bedford.

Ofcom upheld a complaint from Mr Bedford ruling that the 118 118 Runners featured in The Number's TV ads "do caricature David Bedford by way of a comically exaggerated representation of him looking like he did in the 1970s, sporting a hairstyle and facial hair like his at the time, and wearing running kit almost identical to the running kit that was distinctively worn by him at the time, including red socks, sky-blue shorts with gold braiding and a vest with 2 hoops." ®

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