Mishcon de Reya's Competition Team has launched an opt-out collective action, Justin Le Patourel v BT Group Limited, in the Competition Appeal Tribunal, which seeks to represent over 2 million of BT's most loyal customers. The action relates to consumers who were overcharged for their standalone residential landlines (home phones) from at least 1 October 2015 and represents a claim of nearly £600 million. A high proportion of the consumers affected are older (75+) and from low-income brackets. They have, essentially, been penalised with higher prices because of their loyalty. Some class members are in fact still being overcharged. The class members are represented by Mr Justin Le Patourel, a leading telecoms switching expert and consumer champion who previously held various consumer policy roles at Ofcom.
The claim is based on conclusions made by Ofcom as part of a 2017 review which found that BT had significant market power, was a price-leader, and was overcharging standalone landline customers for line rental services. Ofcom therefore considered that there should be an initial price cut of between £5 and £7 in monthly line rental to address the serious consumer detriment it had identified. BT agreed to provide a price reduction of £7 per month for three years to end the investigation but this did not cover all those we consider were overcharged and was only forward looking.
This action seeks compensation for the historic overcharges and for individuals who were excluded from BT's voluntary reduction.
The action is one of only a handful of its kind since changes to allow these types of consumer collective actions were introduced in 2015.
Partner Rob Murray who is representing Le Patourel says, "The claims of customers directly harmed by BT’s exploitative behaviour are precisely the type of claims the collective actions regime is designed to deal with. We hope very much that a settlement can be reached to resolve them in line with BT's acceptance of the need to avoid overcharging when investigated by Ofcom."
Managing Associate Natasha Pearman added, “This is a specialist claim that will be heard before the Competition Appeals Tribunal. It is a classic example of a loyalty penalty, which were the subject of a super complaint by Citizens Advice, due to their harmful effects on consumers. It will take time to gather evidence and bring it to trial, but we are very confident that eventually millions of BT's most loyal customers will receive a significant rebate.”
If you are a BT customer you do not need to do anything at this stage to be part of the claim. If you would like to find out more information or register for updates please contact the Collective Action on Land Lines (CALL) at:
Call on freephone 0333 212 1617
Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Sunday Times