back to article BT ordered to pay £95m to rivals it overcharged for FIVE years

BT overcharged its rivals £95m between 2006 and 2011 - and will pay the excess back to TalkTalk, Virgin Media and others following an Ofcom probe. There were three investigations in total: one was triggered by Verizon UK, another by Cable & Wireless and the third by an aggregation of ISPs including TalkTalk and Sky. They all …

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Anonymous Coward

BT overcharging

Who would have thunk it <sarc>

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Anonymous Coward

Re: BT overcharging

BT = Big Thief.

Robbing people blind for decades. I really hate how every single broadband expansion plan seems to involve them.

The phone lines should be public property like the national grid.

Just because Virgin isn't much better doesn't mean that BT should get the contracts for everything.

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Unhappy

Re: BT overcharging

"The phone lines should be public property like the national grid."

And like the national grid (and it's equivalent gas distribution network) they are not.

It was called privateisation.

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Headmaster

Re: BT overcharging

"The phone lines should be public property like the national grid."

They were, till Thatcher stole them. She also stole the national grid.

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Anonymous Coward

What have BT done to upset El Reg?

Haven't seen a positive story about BT for ages on here, seems to be any old excuse to stick the boot in.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What have BT done to upset El Reg?

"What have BT done to upset El Reg? "

Could it be the miserable, slow, be-boondoggled roll out of national high speed broadband? Or maybe the shite customer and tech support? Or the expense? Or that BT is one of the most enthusiastic exporters of British IT jobs? Or that even the people who work there don't (IME) have a good word to say about them?

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Re: What have BT done to upset El Reg?

Who knows, but given BT's track record, 'something' is highly likely.

BT have always been a company that seem to not require any excuse for sticking the boot in.

When you sign up with BT, they ask for a question/answer pair to identify that they're speaking to the account holder.

Mine is 'What's the worst company in the world?': I'm sure you can guess the answer. It certainly breaks the ice with the BT representative.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What have BT done to upset El Reg?

They're held back comms in this country for decades.

Who was the first to do unmetered dial up? Screaming.net, part of defunct Tempo retail. It sure as hell wasn't BT who were raking in money by the skip load.

ADSL was years late, early 2000s when the US had it in the 1990s. Preferring to rake in money from the flawed ISDN, big upgrade fees to convert a line to digitial and then big fees to change it back to analogue when ADSL was launched.

Can't you see that BT reselling their services to other companies is a flawed system? it's like Sky selling channels to Virgin, they can rip off Virgin big time.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What have BT done to upset El Reg?

Nothing to stop companies installing their own lines and equipment.

Rutland Telecom have installed their own FTTC cabinet (singular) on top of BT's local loop in a village because BT wouldn't do it, and there's the Digital Region FTTC rollout in Yorkshire (although the long term future of that is debatable).

Like it or not, who else can undertake a broadband rollout on a massive scale? Virgin don't cover huge amounts of the country and personally I wouldn't want their shitty service. It's either BT or the government (hmm, government IT, not wise).

You hear about about grandiose plans to shove fibre along the sewers but what happened to that? It seems like the third parties aren't really putting much effort in to trying.

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Re: What have BT done to upset El Reg?

In many cases, BT killed the third-party attempts at broadband provision.

Quite simply, once the third-party looked like they had got the funding, BT would suddenly decide they were going to roll out their broadband despite refusing for several years, thus taking away the customers and then the banks took away the funding.

In many cases BT never even actually completed said roll-out, but by the time it became clear they weren't going actually do it the third party was already defunct - and the monopoly assured.

And that's even before Phorm and the abject failure of the UK government to uphold the law.

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Anonymous Coward

"grandiose plans to shove fibre along the sewers but what happened to that? "

In a word: collapsed. It was never really credible economically anyway as described - even with microtrenching between sewer and customer, the cost per connect is still hundreds of pounds. And for microtrenching to be viable you have to be the first to use it in a given area. Bournemouth (where H2O's first alleged deployment was) already had some microtrenches from Virgin. Two microtrenches in the same footpath doesn't make sense,

Then there was some dodgy dealing (ending up with alleged fraud) going on in terms of funding the equipment supply.

There's an article to be written there one day, by someone willing to do some digging of the journalistic kind.

Relavant company names would include Fibrecity, H2O Networks, and the current holder of the poisoned chalice, CityFibre (spot the difference?).

Shame really, because it would have been nice to have a genuine competitor to BT.

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Coat

Re: "grandiose plans to shove fibre along the sewers but what happened to that? "

Do you mean like this:

http://www.google.com/tisp/install.html

One could honestly state that this"service" was in the toilet.

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Re: What have BT done to upset El Reg?

Absolutely spot on. I went through all those scenarios on behalf of clients. They have a sales force that could sell fridges to Eskimos and a support force that couldn't wire up a 13 amp plug properly.

For the past year or so a client of mine has been battling (with my help) to get her dodgy, intermittent broadband sorted. We changed ADSL modems 4 times, routers 3 times, spent hours monitoring and performing speed tests. In the end, with the help of Zen Internet, we managed to present a prima facie case that the physical line must be the problem. They STILL said that if they send a bloke out and it's not their problem, they'll charge £250. So the next day blokey comes out to check... and finds no less then SEVEN faults on the line.... ffs.

This is not a one off story by the way....

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The recipients i'm asuming, will then pass it back to the real people who have been overcharged... The end customer.

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Alert

Please, don't ever publish

any article containing the phrase "BT are appealing". I'd lose my lunch.

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Anonymous Coward

Ofcom's 2020 vision

At this rate of progress I guess by 2020 or so we might see Ofcom considering whether the unregulated BT Sheffield (aka Plusnet) is or is not exhibiting signs of anti-competitive behaviour in its aggressively priced offerings which mean that there's no sensible way that any non-LLU ISP would attempt to compete against BT.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ofcom's 2020 vision

I moved to PlusNet from (cough-cough) Talk-Talk because they screwed up my FTTC installation completely.

PlusNet are actually more expensive than T-T but at least I get to talk to someone who speaks English when I have a problem and moreover does not try to make out that it is my fault that their crappy line has gone down.

As with most customer experiences they do vary from person to person.

at the moment, I'm happy to pay PlusNet/BT for my service. As everyone in my street is on Virgin and their network really slows down at peak times, I am feeling rather smug.

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Anonymous Coward

AC @16:02 Same problem for residents of Kingston-upon-Hull and the robber baron telCON [sic] company that will allow other companies in, but they have to lay their own cables. GO KINGSTON COMMS!!

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Anonymous Coward

Refunds

AS customer of TT, will we get a refund on the extortionate line rentals, which we hardly use these days due to proliferation of mobiles?

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Anonymous Coward

considering all options

"We are disappointed with Ofcom's determination that we overcharged," the national telco told us in a statement. "We are considering all options available other us, including..."

...trying harder to get away with it next time.

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Great news

Obviously Virgin are now going to refund me because they would have passed the costs to their long suffering customers.

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Coat

Re: Great news

Yes and I'll have some money back from Sky for 4.5 years of their Broadband Max service too.

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h3
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I just got my Virgin Broadband updated to 100Mb and it is still just as bad as before. No improvement whatsoever. (Latency more important than bandwidth to me at least when I had 50Mb)

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h3
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We should have kept BT & The Post Office publicly owned.

Then a politician could say "we are going to have a world(or europe) etc class broadband network" and actually be able to do something about it properly.

(The reason the national grid is so good is precisely because it wasn't developed by loads of disparate private contractors.)

Even if BT was bleeding money from the taxpayer it was doing quite a good service training apprentices.

(Quite a few of the networking guys I knew in London (Contractors on mega money) started at 16 working for BT).

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Anonymous Coward

If you believe that, you'll believe anything:

"We should have kept BT & The Post Office publicly owned.

Then a politician could say "we are going to have a world(or europe) etc class broadband network" and actually be able to do something about it properly."

BT was privatised because the government didn't want to spend the billions needed to upgrade the GPO/British Telecom network of old mechanical exchanges to the then new digital units. All a government owned telco would be is an arm of the ever reliable* uber efficient** civil service. The govt would spend no money on it, broadband/FTTC upgrades would be dependant on being in a marginal constituency (more votes) and you'd have a porn filter stuck on it because the papers shouted for one.

You'd also pay a hell of a lot more than now, as there'd be no competition allowed.

*This may not be true

**This also

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WTF?

h3 must be a youngster then ...

>> We should have kept BT & The Post Office publicly owned.

Are the innocence of youth, not having experienced the joy of having a phone installed by the Post Office.

An aunt (Polish) told me a joke years ago ...

In Poland, a guy goes into his local car dealership to order a new car. Having chosen from the 2 models available, and chosen his shade of grey, he sits down with the salesman to do the paperwork. The salesman informs him that there's a 10 year waiting list, to which the customer asks "Will it be delivered in the morning or afternoon ?"

The salesman is quite surprised by this question. "You're waiting ten years and you want to know if it's being delivered in the morning or afternoon !" he said in a quite puzzled manner.

"Yes", said the customer, "they're installing the phone in the morning".

My aunt did say that while it was an exaggeration, it was (like all good comedy) based on real world experience.

Well the old PO wasn't much better. You could order a phone line and have to wait months - that's if they'll even install one. If there's a shortage of cable pairs into the village, then they'll either refuse to install a line (pulling in more cable would cost money), or they'll install a "party line" - how many readers here have ever had one of those ?

You get a line that's shared with a neighbour. So you want to make a call, you lift the handset and listen. If you don't hear your neighbours chatting, then you press a button (earth loop recall) to get dial tone, and then you can dial - slowly. Dial a digit and wait dur-dur-dur-dur-dur while the dial rotates back, dial a digit and wait dur-dur-dur-dur-dur.

And when it was your turn to get connected, they told you when they were coming. None of this "when is it convenient ?" malarky.

Not happy with the PO phone - two styles, desk or wall mounted, in a fetching shade of black (not sure when they offered a selection of colours) ? Tough - no (or very few) third party phones (legally) available, and no socket to plug them into. No competition meant your choice was to take it or leave it - the PO could be as slow and expensive as they wanted, safe in the knowledge that if you wanted a phone then you had to come to them.

It\s much like the railways. I sometimes hear people complaining about the state of our trains and railways, and suggesting they should be re-nationalised. Invariably they are young enough not to remember what it was like in the days of BR - and it's sandwiches that (only half joking) could double up as hammers to break a window in the event of an emergency.

So in both cases, what we have is far from perfect, but it's better than the alternative we used to have.

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Anonymous Coward

Bleeding money

PO Telecoms didn't bleed money from the treasury, it was a net contributor. Having telecoms in public ownership kept your tax bill down. The trouble was that all revenues it made belonged to the government and so it couldn't reinvest profits to develop new services. Without easy or sufficient access to investment funds - even where there was a clear business case to invest - it had to use pricing as a mechanism to stifle demand instead of behaving like a business and increasing capacity.

Competition is supposed to solve this and encourage investment in all the former public utilities. Where there is a dominant operator regulators act (counter-intuitively) to keep the prices of that operator relatively high to allow space for competition to develop. What actually seems to happen though is that prices drop rapidly and investors take money out of the business, driven by redundancies and the stalling of investment. Government know that they will face the public's wrath if lights go out or the taps go dry and so a game of brinksmanship emerges with the government ending up in the worst of both worlds - funding large scale investment without receiving any of the revenues produced.

My view - former public utilities should be run by not for profit organisations and regulators should act to ensure pricing models include an amount for capital investment.

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Repayment is not enough

They've abused their dominant market position so the repayment to competitors that they screwed over should be more than just 1:1 repayment since the extra costs to rivals will have reduced their ability to grow their customer base.

A better model for costs might be to repay 300% of what they overcharged, or a requirement to repay 100%+interest *and* discount future charges by 50% over demonstrable costs for 5 years.

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Re: Repayment is not enough

Agreed. The settlement gives no incentive to be better. Only the risk of punitive damages can improve the situation.

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Anonymous Coward

Hmm

It's pretty complicated though.

Harsh pricing remedies on future sales rarely work - as a private company it has a duty to its shareholders to make a profit - so selling one set of products at a 50% loss would be offset by higher pricing on unregulated products. Selling at a 50% discount would also make it pretty hard for companies competing with BT.

Oftel/Ofcom in the early years regulated as much to keep BT's prices high as it did to bring them down - on the basis that forcing BT to cut all its prices to the bone would destroy competition. Forcing them to sell below cost, and assuming BT's cost is lower than its rivals through scale, would just ruin the competition leaving BT as a monopoly.

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Vic
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Re: Hmm

> Harsh pricing remedies on future sales rarely work

Limiting their advertising budget would. And it would mean I don't have to watch the current bunch of dorks on the telly.

Vic.

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