Sunday 23 October 2016

BT seeks Comreg overhaul over Eir dominance of telecoms market

Telecoms provider has not ruled out legal action to stop alleged anti-competitive practices

Published 20/12/2015 | 02:30

BT Ireland chief Shay Walsh Photo: Fennell Photography
BT Ireland chief Shay Walsh Photo: Fennell Photography

BT Ireland has called for an overhaul of the telecoms market regulatory regime following claims of anti-competitive practices at dominant rival Eir.

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Managing director Shay Walsh said the industry must "turn off the tap" rather than merely "mopping up the floor" in cleaning up any anti-competitive incidents.

BT Ireland and other telecoms companies are imploring regulator Comreg to tackle market dominant Eir over practices that they claim disadvantage its rivals.

Many of them use Eir's network; Eir is meant to treat them as if they were normal customers, rather than competitors, and not give preferential treatment to its own retail arm. But Eir admitted in a recent report that it often put them at a disadvantage.

BT Ireland has not ruled out taking legal action if the issues identified at Eir are not remedied, Walsh said.

"We'll have to wait and see. The early signs are that they are making progress on a number of areas. We are not ruling legal action in or out at this point," continued Walsh.

"We don't mind a fair fight. A level playing pitch is all we're looking for ... [Ireland] has to turn the tap off as well as mop up the floor."

Walsh called for Ireland to follow the UK's lead on telecoms regulation.

"If you look at how BT in the UK operates, we have functional separation and equivalence. What that means is that BT's consumer side of the house gets equal access to our wholesale arm, Openreach.

"Although Openreach is a part of the BT group, we do not and cannot get access to it in any preferential way over our competitors. It's completely transparent and every single employee is trained - mandatory training - to ensure that they understand what is allowable behaviour.

"So if I was to ring an Openreach engineer and say 'listen, do me a favour, I've a customer in Newcastle and they are screaming at me here in Dublin, is there any chance you could get out and fix it quickly' - that would be a gross misconduct offence at BT.

"There isn't any functional separation and equivalence in Ireland. That is what we have been pressing for.

"Ultimately we all want the same access, that we all go through the same front door. At the moment there is a different door for Eir than there is for anybody else."

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