UK telecomms watchdog Oftel has asked the Monopolies and Mergers Commission to intervene in its bid to slash the cost of calling mobile phones.
At a press conference today, Oftel slammed the prices BT and mobile phone operators - particularly Cellnet and Vodafone - charge each other. It claims these have resulted in customers paying excessive bills tariffs, claiming customers should pay 20 pence per minute, instead of 32 pence.
The watchdog said it decided to ask the MMC to investigate the issue because significant changes in charging would have huge ramifications for customers, equipment suppliers, and all four mobile operators - to the tune of #200 million.
Oftel first complained of the prices BT customers pay to call mobile phones 18 months ago. Back then, a daytime call to Cellnet and Vodafone for a BT customer was 37.5 pence a minute, but has since dropped to 32 pence.
Don Cruickshank, Oftel's director general, said: ?In my view 32 pence a minute is still too high. BT, Cellnet, and Vodafone are still charging too much for their input.?
Vodafone suggested that Oftel has incorrectly allocated costs that can be attributed to incoming calls. ?By using Vodafone, the most efficient network, as the benchmark to set call rates which apply to all operators, Oftel is giving little credit and reward for this efficiency and is penalising the other operators unfairly,? said the company in a statement.
Within the charge BT customers pay, half is the terminating cost BT charges the mobile operator, while the rest goes on BT conveyance costs, retail overheads, discount and tax.
A BT spokesperson questioned the effectiveness of referring to the MMC. ?We believe it to be unusual, if not unprecedented, for the director general to refer to the MMC without havving proposed and discussed potential licence charges with the interested parties. A licence based approach may have proved faster and less costly for all,? said the spokesperson.
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