Building standards regulator the British Standards Institution is under investigation by the Office of Fair Trading for alleged anti-competitive practices.
The inquiry is thought to centre on claims that access to online data provided by the BSI, which is essential for many designers and manufacturers, is too limited and involves customers paying for services they do not require.

Clients who wish to see these standards online must first join the BSI and subscribe to information provider Technical Indexes. Critics object that they should be able to view BSI data online without having to go through this procedure.

Michelle Barclay, technical director of architect Chapman Taylor and chair of the Building Standards Group, said: “Technical Indexes has the sole rights at the moment; there is a monopoly and there is no transparent pricing structure.

“If you want online information on standards, you have to subscribe to the BSI and TI, and then buy a package of standards.”

A spokesperson for the OFT confirmed that an investigation was under way because of an alleged breach of the Competition Act but refused to give more details.

Online access to British Standards is provided through a joint venture between the BSI and American firm Information Handling Systems, whose Technical Indexes subsidiary provides the services.

A BSI spokesperson said he was unaware of any OFT investigation so could not comment.