A row has erupted between the European Commission and UK telecoms watchdog Oftel over BT's delay in implementing a service that lets phone customers use more than one operator.
The Commission said this week that it will open formal infringement proceedings against the UK for failing to implement the carrier pre-selection (CPS) service on time. The European Union (EU) had set 1 January 2000 as the day operators in Europe should introduce CPS, but the UK had an extension until 1 April 2001.
Carrier pre-selection will automatically re-route calls, enabling customers to use more than one operator for local, national and international calls. Currently, users need to dial a prefix or buy an adaptor to re-route calls.
The EU said the infringement proceedings against the UK are for delays in the effective introduction of CPS. But Oftel, which oversaw BT's implementation of the system, has refuted the claims and said it is satisfied that it cohered to all deadlines set by the EU.
"We are responding to the Commission but are satisfied that a carrier pre-selection service has been introduced according to the deadlines the EU set," said an Oftel spokeswoman. "We are happy to respond to the Commission, but are happy that we met deadlines."
In March this year, Oftel ruled that BT must pay competitors 50 per cent of the cost of providing CPS auto-diallers - phone boxes that plug into the normal BT socket and cost about £8 - after the telco missed the January deadline for upgrading its network.
At the time, Oftel said BT will provide an interim service from 1 April using auto-diallers. A full automated carrier system for all other calls, such as local, mobile and pager numbers, is expected by the end of 2001.
However, BT has asked the High Court to let it appeal against the ruling, so the watchdog is under attack from both sides. Earlier this week telecoms companies also expressed anger over the regulator's action in the rollout of digital subscriber line services.
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