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BT and OneTel lock horns over mis-selling dispute

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BT and OneTel are locked in a bitter war of words over allegations of mis-selling phone services.

The UK's dominant fixed line telco said it has settled a long running legal dispute after Centrica Telecommunications Ltd, which owns OneTel, gave written undertaking that it would "not infringe BT's trade marks or pass itself off as BT".

The undertakings followed what BT described as "serious complaints from members of the public that Centrica's sales agents had misled customers into thinking that Centrica was in some way connected to BT".

Had Centrica failed to co-operate BT would have been prepared to issue legal proceedings.

Now OneTel has hit back, claiming BT's decision to publicise the agreement was done not to protect consumers but to "damage the OneTel name".

Said OneTel MD Ian El-Mokadem: "By publicising our signing of undertakings in regard to IP Infringement BT are attempting to infer that Onetel has not had controls in place previously. Clearly, their desire is to damage the Onetel name.

"Onetel already has the strictest controls in place and on that basis we have signed the undertakings. 

"One has to ask why, having co-operated in this way, BT insisted on publicising this matter.

"Our strong belief is that BT's actions are nothing to do with consumer protection and everything to do with damaging their most successful competitor," he said.

Last week regulator Ofcom confirmed that UK's 35 leading phone operators have all introduced guidelines to prevent their staff from mis-selling phone services.

However, the regulator continues to trawl through thousands of complaints to see if they warrant a full-blown investigation into the sales tactics of certain operators. Telcos in breach of the rules can be fined up to 10 per cent of their turnover.

In August BT secured an out of court settlement against Caudwell Communications Ltd (CCL) for "infringement of registered trade marks and for passing off".

The High Court action, which kicked off in May, followed customer complaints that CCL's sales agents had misled customers into thinking that the company was in some way connected to BT. ®

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