Despite a £1.5 million investigation that lasted four years the OFT has dropped an inquiry regarding submarine cables, stating that the issues "no longer constituted an administrative priority". It was also stated that considerable additional work would be required before they could make a "sufficient robust statement of objections" regarding the alleged infringement of competition rules. The CAT has also confirmed that it will not hear an appeal on the OFT's decision.
The case concerned Cityhook, a technology company, which alleged that the UK Cable Protection Committee (of which some large telecommunications-related companies such as BT, Level 3, NTL, and Cable & Wireless are members) had unfairly, boycotted Cityhook.
The OFT's statement that the case was no longer considered to be an "administrative priority" follows on from their previous "clarification of objectives" which we reported in our earlier bulletin in relation to publication of guidelines of their investigation priorities.
Cityhook saw the case as an example of larger, more established, companies preventing a newcomer from gaining a level footing in their market place. It went onto state its disappointment, feeling that the OFT was letting down a smaller company by allowing the alleged cartel to emerge victorious.
CAT admitted the case had not been "an easy one to decide", pointing critically to the lack of clarity when the OFT had closed its four year investigation. "The OFT's approach to these matters was unclear and remained so even at the hearing," it said. Despite this, a detailed review of the evidence led the tribunal to reject the appeal. Cityhook has confirmed that it will now be seeking judicial review.