Public Sector – Oftel must toughen up

The National Audit Office has told telecommunications watchdog Oftel to get tougher on anti-competitive behaviour.

Sir John Bourn, the Comptroller and Auditor General, said Oftel had ‘considerably improved’ its performance, but added ‘there is scope for it to improve its effectiveness still further.’

In an NAO report, British Telecom which holds 65% of the market, was the subject of 84% of the 217 anti-competitive investigations Oftel undertook between 1995 and 1997.

The investigations involved work including installation and special services such as ‘call waiting’. Oftel said only six cases with BT had failed to be resolved during the period.

The report advised Oftel to undertake a raft of measures including an external review and reporting of time taken to investigate anti-competitive behaviour. The report also recommended Oftel revie-wed its use of the fair trading option, a deterrent against anti-competitive behaviour built into operating licences.

The auditor also instructed Oftel to improve its recruitment and retention of staff through long-term contracts designed to combat high staff turnover.

David Edmonds, Oftel’s new director general, said: ‘We will continue to improve our responsiveness to meet the needs of an increasingly competitive market, but it isn’t easy to reconcile a complainant’s desire for a swift decision with the need for Oftel to carry out a fair investigation before deciding on action.’

Related reading