Own-initiative investigation into BT blocking WLR orders for customers on certain BT Retail tariffs

30 November 2004

Complainant: Ofcom own-initiative investigation
Investigation against: BT
Case opened: 28 June 2004
Case Closed: 29 November 2004
Issue: BT Wholesale's blocking of Wholesale Line Rental customer transfers
Relevant instrument: Notification, and Schedule 1, published on 28 November 2003 by the Director General of Telecommunications pursuant to sections 48(1) and 79 of the Communications Act 2003, as set out in Annex A to Oftel's market review document entitled: "Review of the fixed narrowband wholesale exchange line, call origination, conveyance and transit markets. Identification and analysis of markets, determination of market power and the setting of SMP conditions - Final Explanatory Statement and Notification."

In particular:

  • Condition AA1(a) - Requirement to provide Network Access on reasonable request
  • Condition AA1(b) - Requests for new Network Access
  • Condition AA2 - Requirement not to unduly discriminate
  • Condition AA10 - Requirement to provide WLR

Note - Condition AA 10 includes reference to the Wholesale ISDN Line Rental Functional Specification

As of October 2004, BT changed its processes so it no longer rejects WLR transfer orders for lines because the relevant customer signed up to a long term retail contract with BT. In addition, as of October 2004 BT no longer rejects individual NHS Lines associated with pool contracts (1).

In Ofcom's opening Competition Bulletin, Ofcom stated that, for customers taking the NHS line package, BT's competitors apparently are obliged to follow a cumbersome manual order process in order to complete the transfer of a WLR customer. BT has confirmed that transfer orders for customers taking the NHS line package are processed by BT via the Service Provider Gateway, and not manually.

As a result of information gathered during the investigation, Ofcom learnt that BT did not notify WLR service providers that WLR transfer orders may be rejected for BT customers taking a certain BT retail package (Access Reward). To increase the transparency of this process in the future, BT has made changes to the way in which transfer order rejections are managed. In particular, BT has confirmed that should it need to either introduce or change a product categorisation in order to reject a WLR transfer order BT will advise Ofcom of the proposed reject decision, and, as part of giving this prior notice, will also make Ofcom aware of how this change will be communicated to service providers.

As a result of the abovementioned changes that have been made by BT, Ofcom has has closed its investigation into this matter.

(1) A pool contract is a single contract encompassing a specified number of eligible circuits, allowing customers a degree of flexibility to increase or reduce the actual number of circuits registered to the pool

Case Leader: Robert MacDougall (e-mail: Robert.Macdougall@ofcom.org.uk
Case reference: CW/00773/06/04

Text published when the case was opened

Complainant: Ofcom own-initiative investigation
Investigation against: BT
Case opened: 28 June 2004
Issue: BT Wholesale's* blocking of Wholesale Line Rental customer transfers
Relevant instrument: Notification, and Schedule 1, published on 28 November 2003 by the Director General of Telecommunications pursuant to sections 48(1) and 79 of the Communications Act 2003, as set out in Annex A to Oftel's market review document entitled: "Review of the fixed narrowband wholesale exchange line, call origination, conveyance and transit markets. Identification and analysis of markets, determination of market power and the setting of SMP conditions - Final Explanatory Statement and Notification. "

In particular:

  • Condition AA1(a) - Requirement to provide Network Access on reasonable request
  • Condition AA1(b) - Requests for new Network Access
  • Condition AA2 - Requirement not to unduly discriminate
  • Condition AA10 - Requirement to provide WLR

Note - Condition AA 10 includes reference to the Wholesale ISDN Line Rental Functional Specification

Ofcom understands that BT blocks certain WLR transfers to competing providers. The blocking in question appears to concern BT retail business customers who have signed up to the "Access Reward" discount scheme (also known as the BT Exchange Line Credit Scheme) and customers on the "NHS line" package. In addition, for customers taking the NHS line package, BT's competitors apparently are obliged to follow a cumbersome manual order process in order to complete the transfer of a WLR customer. This appears to be a consequence of restrictions imposed by BT associated with the automated ordering process.

These transfer restrictions may unduly benefit BT Retail, which might therefore breach certain of BT's above-mentioned regulatory obligations. Ofcom has therefore decided to open an investigation. Ofcom's investigation will include, but not necessarily be restricted to, consideration of whether:

BT Wholesale is in breach of its regulatory obligations by blocking WLR transfers with reference to retail contract terms imposed by BT retail;
the blocking of certain WLR orders and the manual processes imposed by BT Wholesale are inconsistent with the Wholesale ISDN Line Rental Functional Specification and therefore amount to a breach of BT's regulatory obligations.

* amended on 1 July 2004 to correct typograhical error

Case Leader: Robert MacDougall (e-mail: Robert.macdougall@ofcom.org.uk
Case reference: CW/00773/06/04