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Cable company HOT filed a civil suit yesterday in the Tel Aviv District Court against Bezeq International, alleging that the long-distance carrier committed industrial espionage and stole secrets.

Bezeq International planted moles inside HOT to find confidential information about subscribers to HOT's Internet service, the cable company claims.

HOT and Bezeq are the only suppliers of Internet infrastructure. Bezeq International, Netvision-Barak-Globcall and Internet Gold-Golden Lines are the primary Internet Service Providers. Infrastructure providers are forbidden from recommending or promoting a particular ISP.

The Schocken group paper Netanya News reported a month ago that 16 HOT employees were fired for passing information to an external concern.

After conducting an undercover investigation of its own sales agents, HOT discovered they were apparently referring customers to Bezeq International in violation to company rules. Since then the number of dismissals has risen to 30.
 
HOT claims THAT Bezeq International representatives paid HOT representatives NIS 50 per "lead" - a HOT Internet client whose personal information was sent to Bezeq International people. A HOT representative who supplied more than 30 leads in a month, the suit charges, was awarded with bed-and-breakfast accommodations.

HOT stresses the ability of Bezeq International representatives to promise valuable perks as attesting to the apparent involvement of management figures in Bezeq International in the alleged illegal activity.

"It seems clear that Bezeq International managers - at least managers from the marketing and customer recruitment area - initiate, approve and support the serious acts mentioned above," the suit argues. "This phenomenon is accompanied by compensation supplied by the marketing apparatus of Bezeq International as bribes targeting cable workers who cooperated to reveal the desired leads."

The alleged bribes besides the B&B's included gift certificates, electric devices and MP3 players. HOT says it first identified the practice 18 months ago. However, in recent months, HOT says, indicates "the phenomenon is picking up strength and reaching the dimensions of a plague."

In another instance presented in the suit, nicknamed the "personal Trojan horse," HOT charges Bezeq International planted a spy among its workers. The cable firm's security cameras recorded a worker copying customer files from its computer system and emailing them. Likewise, HOT claims, the same employee placed several phone calls from his work station to Bezeq International representatives and its switchboard.

In light of the information uncovered, according to the suit, HOT CEO David Kaminitz contacted Bezeq International CEO Avi Gabay in the hope the matter would be looked into and brought to an end immediately. However, Gabay ignored him.

The suit was filed, HOT says, after many of its employees in recent months turned to management, saying they had received offers from Bezeq International workers, including money or other bribes, for passing details on new customers who joined its Internet infrastructure, as well as those of existing customers. HOT consequently filed several complaints with the police, whose investigation is still under way

In addition HOT decided to ask the courts to order Bezeq International to immediately cease any alleged attempts to tempt workers with favors whose substance is to reveal confidential information about HOT Internet clients.

Bezeq International commented: "The company has acted and continues to act according to law. HOT continues in its attempts to mislead the public. Here is an attempt to put a media spin on HOT, especially in light of its recent violations of its license as set by the Communications Ministry in all pertaining to its relations with Bezeq International." The company added it would be better if HOT "focuses on serving its customers, and not seeking excuses for its commercial failures."