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Ofcom calls BT tariff changes 'a surprise'

Oh no they're not, says BT, Oh yes they are, says Ofcom

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The UK's new communications regulator has only been going for three months or so, but already it's involved in a row with the UK's dominant telco.

Yesterday - marking its first 100 days in office - Ofcom confirmed it had begun an "urgent" investigation into BT's decision to scrap its standard rate over concerns that the move is anti-competitive.

BT says it's done nothing wrong and is "confident that [its] new customer propositions are wholly in line with [its] legal and regulatory obligation".

It is also bemused by Ofcom's assertion that the regulator was unaware of the price changes.

In a speech to Westminster Media Forum yesterday, Ofcom chief exec Stephen Carter said that BT's tariff changes were a "surprise" - and one which he doesn't want repeated.

"I have to say this was a surprise. Between regulator and prime regulated, there is usually a no-surprises policy at a senior executive level.

"For whatever reason, that did not effectively happen in this case. Whilst this lack of pre-disclosure will not affect our decision, I have to say this was a surprise.

"We have strongly encouraged BT to avoid any such repetition and welcome their agreement to that policy."

That's not exactly how BT sees it. The telco insists it did tell Ofcom of its plans.

Said a BT spokesman: "We had a meeting with Ofcom on February 25 when we presented our plans. We feel that we've fulfilled all our legal and regulatory obligations."

So we put this to Ofcom. A spokesman there told us that BT "did not share with us the detail of the plans - had they done so then the discussion would have been very different."

Heavens above - if they can't even agree on what was said, what hope for future relations?

One last thing. Mr Carter went on to say: "Needless arguments with the Regulator are good for no one, least of all the industry being regulated."

That's not strictly true. There's nothing better than a good old-fashioned bun fight. Bring it on. ®

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