Colette Bowe, chairman of the independent consumer panel advising Ofcom, has called on the media regulator's chief executive to step in and solve the dispute between Virgin Media and BSkyB. In a letter to Ed Richards, Bowe said the loss of Sky's basic channels on Virgin Media's cable platform following the failure of both parties to agree carriage fees had "disadvantaged" consumers since they were still paying for services they could not receive.
Though cable subscribers could switch to Sky in order to receive Sky One, Sky Two and Sky News, the option was "at the very least, complex and time consuming".
"We are concerned, therefore, that there are, right at this moment, consumers who are being disadvantaged and who will find it difficult to use the normal mechanisms available in other market places to get what they want?and are paying for. Given the importance of this issue for consumers, we request you to use your influence as the regulator of this market to facilitate an early resolution of this dispute in the interests of consumers," said Bowe.
Earlier this month the National Consumer Council (NCC) accused Sky and Virgin of "behaving like children" in the pricing dispute, and threatened to make a "super-complaint" which could prompt a review of the UK's digital television market by the Office of Fair Trading. Virgin Media later gave Sky a 30-day deadline to resolve the dispute, or face the cable operator in the high court. That deadline expires in 20 days' time.
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