Failed telecoms probe leaves OFT red-faced

Competition lawyers have slammed the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) after it provisionally dropped a four-year, £1.5m cartel investigation into the telecoms market.

Addleshaw Goddard competition partner Edward Pitt, who represented the UK Cable Protection Committee (UKCPC), told The Lawyer the investigation was unnecessary and should have been dropped much sooner.

Pitt said: “If the OFT spent £1.5m on this investigation, you could multiply that by five for the companies that spent four years defending themselves against these allegations. This was a case that should not have taken four years for the OFT to drop. This same decision should have been made a year into the investigation.

“The real cost of such an unnecessary and long investigation is the economic inefficiency caused by business uncertainty, as well as the disruption of management time,” Pitt concluded.

Last month, the OFT decided that the inquiry “no longer constitutes an administrative priority” and provisionally walked away from its investigation into a complaint by transatlantic cable-making company Cityhook that it was being unfairly boycotted by the UKCPC, whose members include BT, Cable & Wireless and Level 3.