Cable and Wireless Communications has been forced to extend a free Internet access deal to 70,000 former Videotron customers for several more weeks.
CWC backed down from its threat to impose charges on customers after an Oftel investigation found that it had failed to explain proposed tariff changes adequately.
The customers in South London and Southampton were just days away from losing a long standing deal providing them with free off peak Internet access last week, when the telecoms watchdog decided to intervene. (see Newswire 24 August, 1999)
CWC claimed that the free deal was uneconomic and would be replaced with a £10 tariff from 1 September, but Oftel today ruled that the cable operator had not given customers sufficient notice of its intentions.
It claimed to have received more than 350 complaints about CWC's handling of the changes and called on the cable operator to extend the deadline, explain the new terms and conditions more clearly and give customers at least a month's notice of changes.
David Edmonds, Oftel's director general of telecommunications, said he was pleased CWC had decided to revise its schedule for introducing the charges.
"Whenever a company introduces new tariffs, they must take proper steps to ensure that their customers receive adequate warning and that they are given sufficient information to assess how they will be affected by the changes," Edmonds said.
A spokeswoman for CWC was unable to specify when the charges would now come into force but said it was unlikely to be before 1 October.
An administrative error had delayed the dispatch of initial letters notifying customers of the change and that CWC would write to all subscribers again to inform them of the new deadline.
Customers would receive a month's notice from the date that they received this letter, she said.
She pointed out that Oftel had not ruled against the introduction of charges.
"Oftel didn't have a problem with us changing the tariff," she said.
Customers wishing to contact Oftel on this issue can call 0171 634 8700 or use the form on Oftel's Web site at http://www.oftel.gov.uk/crs/compform.htm.
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