Ofcom drops probe into BT’s charges for business lines

An investigation over allegations that BT overcharged businesses when installing high-speed lines into offices has been dropped by regulator Ofcom on “administrative priority grounds”.

The watchdog launched a probe in July after saying information provided by BT could have breached rules meant to protect small firms from facing large, up-front costs.

New rules introduced in May 2014 mean BT must absorb the first £2,800 of excess construction costs associated with installing cables and technology into businesses signing up to BT’s leased line services.

Ofcom said last summer it believed BT may not have applied the so-called excess construction charges (ECCs) to a number of businesses.

But on dropping the case, it said:  “Having gathered and reviewed further information from Openreach, we have decided not to proceed with the investigation on administrative priority grounds.”

The regulator added the move comes “in light of the limited consumer harm and the proactive steps Openreach has taken to address the issue, including voluntarily reimbursing all affected telecoms providers for the full amount of the ECC overcharge including interest”.

Ofcom said it would continue to monitor Openreach’s compliance.

It added: “We are supportive of the proactive and comprehensive compliance and assurance review launched recently by Openreach, which aims to identify improvements in its processes and systems to ensure strong compliance going forward.”

The announcement comes after Openreach announced plans on Monday to make ultrafast broadband available in more than 200 market towns and villages across the UK as part of its aim to reach four million homes and businesses with full-fibre technology by March 2021.

Work will start within 14 months, with new locations including Aberdare in South Wales and Saxmundham in Suffolk, building on trials last year which have seen engineers develop new techniques to help Openreach extend its full-fibre network into areas previously considered too complex or expensive to upgrade.

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