LOSS-MAKING telephone and internet directory service Scoot.com has launched Connect, an innovative partnership with Energis that directly links telephone enquirers to businesses able to supply their needs. Businesses pay a fee to Scoot for each enquiry which, claims the company, generates immediate revenue and profit. The EC2 bookies aren't so sure: 'I remain a sceptic', said one. 'They are pinning all their hopes on this'.

Within days of the Connect launch, BT-owned rival telephone information service Talking Pages, issued a head-on challenge to Scoot's new scheme. BT's Call Completion also links enquirers direct with the business they wish to contact; unlike Scoot, however, advertisers in the Call Completion directory pay nothing for introductions in their first year. BT expects the new service to attract £1m in advertising revenues, although Oftel may have other ideas - the free offer could infringe regulations banning BT from cross-subsidising its operations.

[Stop Press, 17/5/99: Oftel yesterday upheld a complaint from Scoot that BT's free offer amounted to predatory pricing and ordered BT to withdraw the deal pending further investigation.]