(Corrects to change "competition rules" to "consumer rules" in
headline and first paragraph, corrects first date in paragraph
two to May 2015 from May 2014)
LONDON, Sept 20 European pay-TV group Sky
may have violated consumer rules by making it too
difficult for customers to cancel or switch providers, Britain's
communications regulator said on Tuesday, potentially putting
the broadcaster in line for a major fine.
Ofcom said there were "reasonable grounds" to believe Sky
broke the rules between May 2015 and July 2015 on its landline
and broadband services, where the company is fighting with
rivals TalkTalk, Virgin Media and market
leader BT for subscribers.
In a sign of the fierce competition within the sector, Ofcom
has fined mobile operator EE 1 million pounds ($1.3 million) for
failing to handle customer complaints properly and has locked
horns with Vodafone over its methods for handling
Sky, which according to Ofcom is Britain's second-largest
broadband provider with 24 percent market share, could face a
fine of up to 10 percent of its turnover in the affected
services over the period under investigation.
Sky, 39-percent owned by Rupert Murdoch's Twenty-First
Century Fox, said it was "very disappointed" by the
decision and would review the findings before responding.
"We are incredibly proud to have the highest customer
satisfaction levels in the industry, as ranked in the last Ofcom
customer service report," a spokesman said.
"We have worked with Ofcom openly and constructively
throughout their investigation so are very disappointed with
this provisional decision."
Sky has a month to make a written response.
Ofcom also said it would not take any action in a separate
probe into whether Sky broke competition rules on terminating
contracts within a two-week cooling-off period given to clients
after they sign up.
Both investigations were opened last year after customers
complained to Ofcom.
Known for splashing out billions of pounds on broadcast
rights to big-league sports, Sky has 22 million paying customers
in Britain, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy.
(Reporting by Peter Hobson; Editing by Mark Potter and David