Second time unlucky for Freeserve

LONDON (11/21/2003) - U.K. telco watchdog Oftel's investigation into Freeserve PLC's allegations of anti-competitive pricing has once again found in favor of BT Group PLC.

Freeserve brought a complaint against BT back in March 2002, accusing it of conducting cross-marketing campaigns, enforcing predatory pricing, having advance notification of BT Wholesale price reductions, and of using its telephone census to the benefit of BT Openworld (Blue Billing).

But all four complaints were rejected by the watchdog, leaving Freeserve with no alternative but to take its case to the U.K. Competition Commission's Appeals Tribunal (CCAT). The Tribunal agreed with Oftel on three of the four issues but ordered it to reinvestigate the allegations of predatory pricing, not because its earlier decision was wrong but because it had not provided enough evidence of how it had reached its conclusion.

Oftel reinvestigated the matter in full and reached the same decision.

Freeserve, which claimed victory for the initial ruling, was a little less enthusiastic today.

"We've not seen the full decision but believe that Oftel has concluded that BT priced below cost for some categories of consumers, but still found that there was no abuse of dominance. Freeserve will take this fully into account when considering whether to appeal Oftel's decision to the Competition Appeal Tribunal," the company said in a statement.

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