Both Freeserve and Oftel are claiming victory after the Competition Appeals Tribunal handed down its ruling on the dispute between the internet service provider (ISP) and the telecoms watchdog.
The tribunal has dismissed three of the four complaints which Freeserve brought against Oftel, upholding the latter's earlier decisions.
But in finding a final point worthy of reconsideration, it has left both sides claiming the moral high ground.
Freeserve said that the decision, which concerns an accusation of predatory pricing by BT, is "an important victory" and dismissed the other three as "minor" and of no importance.
But David Edmonds, director general of Oftel, claimed that the tribunal's decision in its favour on three points was "a vindication of Oftel's robust decision making processes".
The dispute began last March when Freeserve lobbied the regulator with 'proof' of what it claimed was BT's anti-competitive behaviour.
The ISP suggested that marketing conducted by BT Wholesale benefited BT's residential broadband businesses at the retail level, especially BT Openworld.
It complained that this constituted a cross-subsidy which created an abuse of a dominant position.
Freeserve also claimed that BT Wholesale gave BT Openworld confidential information in advance, including notice of a 40 per cent cut in the broadband wholesale price, and that BT used its telephone census to benefit BT Openworld.
Oftel dismissed these claims in its ruling, but Freeserve insisted that the decision "lacked transparency and manifestly erred in law".
The ISP then lodged an appeal with the tribunal asking it either to set aside Oftel's decision and refer it back to the industry watchdog for "proper consideration and investigation", or to "find in favour of [Freeserve's] argument".
After months of deliberation the tribunal has now upheld Oftel's original decision on three points concerning cross-marketing between BT and BT Openworld, advance notification of wholesale price changes and BT's use of its telephone census.
On the fourth point, concerning predatory pricing, the tribunal described Oftel's original decision as "inadequate", and said that the legal requirement had not been fulfilled.
Oftel has volunteered to re-examine this issue, so the tribunal has not made a formal order. But it has asked for a new ruling in three months.
A spokeswoman for the tribunal told vnunet.com that it would be sympathetic to an extension if Oftel required this, because the case could prove complex.
Freeserve said that it would "take the opportunity presented by the judgement to file further evidence to bolster its complaint against BT".
BT insisted that it was pleased by the tribunal's ruling but noted that Oftel's "procedures on pricing had been questioned".
"We are clearly confident that our actions have been proper but will co-operate fully with Oftel's reinvestigation," said a spokesman.
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