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Sky Broadband in Ofcom Complaint Over BT’s Fault Investigation Charges

Tuesday, Jul 19th, 2016 (11:26 am) - Score 1,103

UK ISP Sky Broadband has mirrored TalkTalk’s recent move (here) by nudging Ofcom into launching a second parallel probe of Openreach’s (BT) Special Fault Investigation (SFI) engineer service and Time Related Charges (TRC), with both questioning whether such charges are being correctly applied.

Disputes over how much Openreach charges for engineer related work and the way that it applies those charges are of course nothing new to these pages, with ISPs sometimes complaining that they can end up being asked to foot the bill for Openreach to find and fix faults that exist within its own network; amongst other gripes (delays, other billing errors etc.).

In keeping with that Ofcom recently opened a related investigation after TalkTalk complained that the charges being applied to them between 1st April 2011 and 30th June 2014 “were not cost-orientated” and were thus “inconsistent” with BT’s basis of charges obligations in relation to these services.

Funnily enough Sky Broadband’s complaint is almost identical, except for covering a much longer period between 1st January 2009 and 30th June 2014.

Ofcom Statement

This dispute concerns allegations by Sky that BT’s TRC and SFI charges in relation to local loop unbundling (“LLU”) and wholesale line rental (“WLR”) services, in the period between 1 January 2009 and 30 June 2014 (“the relevant period”) were not cost-orientated and were therefore inconsistent with BT’s basis of charges obligations under SMP conditions imposed by Ofcom in successive reviews of the markets for wholesale local access services and wholesale fixed analogue exchange line services since 2003.

Ofcom recognises that, on the face of the referral, there appears to be a dispute between the parties that commercial negotiations have failed to resolve. In resolving disputes, Ofcom must act in a manner which is consistent with both Ofcom’s general duties under section 3 of the Act, and pursuant to section 4(1)(c) of the Act, the six Community requirements set out in section 4 of the Act which give effect, amongst other things, to Article 8 of the Framework Directive.

Ofcom stopped taking feedback for TalkTalk’s complaint on 16th June 2016, although any stakeholders / ISPs interested in the outcome of Sky’s separate dispute have until 29th July 2016 to respond. Should the regulator find against BTOpenreach then the operator could be forced to repay any incorrectly levelled amounts.

An Openreach Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“This is a detailed and complex pricing issue which couldn’t be resolved commercially.

Ofcom hasn’t endorsed Sky’s case, but the regulator is legally obliged to investigate issues like this and we’ll engage fully in that process.”

The timing of today’s dispute, which comes on the same day as a damning new report of BT’s national broadband progress and infrastructure is published (here), can’t be ignored. The regulator may perhaps be hoping that the added pressure is enough to encourage Openreach into making a bigger concession towards their Strategic Review demands.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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