BT dominance ‘unacceptable’, say MPs

Punters confused over tariffs and providers

UK punters are paying over the odds for their phone services because they need a degree in maths to work out which tariff is best for them.

There's so much confusing information around that many consumers are simply unable to decide whether it would make financial sense to switch telecoms providers or opt for alternative tariffs.

In a stinging report out today by the Public Accounts Committee, MPs said that more should be done to help consumers switch telco providers.

The report found that while the fixed-line telecoms market has been liberalised since the privatisation of BT in 1984, the monster telco still retains around 70 per cent of the total market and 75 per cent of the domestic market.

MPs found BT's continued dominance "unacceptable" adding that consumers just don't have access to the right information to identify the best deal.

"Many telephone bills do not provide enough information to allow customers to determine the best tariff and discount options, and the differing ways in which companies quote phone tariffs means that comparisons can be difficult," said the report.

"Consumers may be confused about what they are paying at present. Consumers will find it harder to make an informed choice if their current phone bill is obscure."

MPs called on communications regulator Ofcom to work with phone companies to develop more standardised and transparent charging structures to help punters make informed choices about their telco provider.

Committee chairman Edward Leigh MP said: "Many consumers are not getting as good a deal as they could on their telephone bills.

"They could save money by either switching supplier or changing their tariff.

"It is unacceptable that BT retains around 70 per cent of the total market 20 years after privatisation.

"There is no doubt that consumers find the telecommunications market confusing, and need more help to make properly informed choices."

BT has been quick to defend its role in the sector. A spokeswoman said BT was "hopping mad" with the findings of the report: "The report says that the market is confusing for consumers. This is not BT's fault. In fact, BT's pricing packages are among the clearest in the market place and are proving to be very popular with consumers."

"It is unfair to criticise BT for having a strong market share - the UK telecoms market is very competitive and BT has maintained its share through a mix of attractive pricing and strong customer service," she said.

Indeed, BT keeps trotting out the line that more than 60,000 people a month are returning to the monster telco after opting for another provider. No one at the company has yet been able to say how many people are leaving BT each month. ®

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