Introduction

TelNG is a UK telecoms provider. We originally interconnected with BT when they first launched their IP Exchange product in 2007. All went well until recently; we spent the best part of £5,000,000 with them in that time, and we were (mostly) happy customers.

Then we had a dispute over whether some traffic is artificially inflated ("AIT") - a situation where we generate calls to our own numbers in order to profit from a mechanism allowing us to originate those calls at a lower cost than the payment we receive for terminating them. We have not done so; in any case, the proportion of calls in dispute was small: less than 3% of the calls which we answered in June 2018 were alleged to be artificially inflated. And, even if they were AIT, part of the process is that BT withholds payment for them from us, so BT suffers no financial loss.

Having failed to provide the required level of evidence that these calls were AIT, BT decided to terminate our IP Exchange contract - basically, they're not paying our bill and cutting us off. The standard IP Exchange contract allows them to do this on 30 days' notice for any reason. We received a termination notice on March 2nd, which BT extended a couple of times and then withdrew. We had discussions with Ofcom during this time, and referred a dispute to them asking them to make a determination that the clause in the IP Exchange contract allowing BT to terminate "at will" was undesirable; Ofcom declined to intervene. BT subsequently re-issued the termination notice in June, and terminated our IP Exchange contract on 17th August 2018. As a result, calls to numbers for which we are the range holder are now failing. A copy of BT's letter to us is available here.

If this has affected you, then, firstly, we are unable to help. We asked Ofcom whether we should direct people who've lost service to them - their answer is that they do not respond to individual consumer complaints, but they do monitor consumer experiences. There's a form which you can fill in here.

Discussion

Ofcom must bear much of the responsibility for this situation. Two of Ofcom's duties are to promote competition and to prevent end-user harm. Our view is that Ofcom, by refusing to intervene, have failed in both of these. There are currently, according to BT's annual report, over 170 businesses relying on IP Exchange to provide their service, and each one is 30 working days away from having their contract terminated by a competitor.

Further, Ofcom did not follow their own process for dispute resolution, preferring instead to have informal discussions with BT and pretty much take BT's word at face value. We escalated this within Ofcom according to their own procedures (which include a commitment to either respond fully in 20 working days or let us know within that time period that it'll take longer) on 6th May, and we've not - as of 29th August - received a reply.

We looked at alternatives. One was to host our numbering with another provider, but this is at least a three-month process and would rely on BT producing a table showing, for ported numbers, to whom they have been ported. We have requested one, but not received anything usable. The way which we have chosen is to establish our own old-fashioned interconnects with BT under the Standard Interconnect Agreement, which gives us both protection against further capriciousness on BT's part and the ability to negotiate as a somewhat more equal partner. I'm maintaining a diary outlining how the process is unfolding here.