Sunday 18 August 2019

BT under investigation for overcharging business customers

Regulator Ofcom is looking at whether the telecoms giant breached rules that should have reduced the cost to businesses.

BT is under investigation by Ofcom over suggestions it overcharged businesses (BT/PA)
BT is under investigation by Ofcom over suggestions it overcharged businesses (BT/PA)

By Simon Neville, PA City Editor

BT is under investigation by the telecoms regulator over allegations that it may have overcharged businesses when installing high-speed lines into offices.

Ofcom has launched a probe into the UK’s biggest telecoms firm after saying information provided by BT could have breached rules meant to protect small firms from facing large, up-front costs.

New rules introduced in May 2014 mean BT must absorb the first £2,800 of excess construction costs associated with installing cables and technology into businesses signing up to BT’s leased line services.

Leased lines are high-speed, high-quality, point-to-point data connections that telecoms providers use for connecting offices, mobile base stations and broadband access networks, according to Ofcom.

Having considered the information provided by BT, we have decided to open an investigation to examine whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that BT has failed to comply with its obligations Ofcom

The watchdog said: “Excess construction charges (ECCs) are charges levied by BT to recover the costs of customer-specific network construction required to extend BT’s existing network out to where the customer requires the new connection.”

But the first £2,800 should be exempt, with BT allowed to make up the “resulting loss of revenue with a balancing charge which is part of the standard connection charge for all relevant business connectivity services”.

Ofcom added: “BT has provided Ofcom with information indicating that it may not have correctly applied the ECC exemption to a number of relevant business connectivity orders since the beginning of the ECC exemption regime.

“Having considered the information provided by BT, we have decided to open an investigation to examine whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that BT has failed to comply with its obligations.”

A spokesperson for BT’s Openreach division said: “We’re aware of Ofcom’s investigation and we will, of course, provide any information they need through the course of their enquiries.”

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