BT faces lawsuit for ‘landline overcharging’

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BT is facing a class-action lawsuit over claims it failed to compensate elderly customers who were overcharged for landlines for years, reports The BBC

The £600 million case has been brought by Justin Le Patourel, a founder of consumer group Collective Action on Landlines (CALL) who was also a telecoms consultant working for Ofcom for 13 years.

In 2017, Ofcom said people who only had a landline telephone were “getting poor value for money in a market that is not serving them well enough”. As a result, BT reduced the price of its landlines by £7 a month. But campaigners are unhappy that “loyal customers” have still not been compensated for previous overcharging.

“Ofcom made it very clear that BT had spent years overcharging landline customers, but did not order it to repay the money it made from this,” said Justin Le Patourel. “We think millions of BT’s most loyal landline customers could be entitled to compensation of up to £500 each, and the filing of this claim starts that process.”

BT said it “strongly disagrees” with the claim that it had engaged in anti-competitive behaviour and intends to defend itself “vigorously” in court. A spokesman for BT said: “We take our responsibilities to older and more vulnerable customers very seriously and will defend ourselves against any claim that suggests otherwise.

“For many years we’ve offered discounted landline and broadband packages in what is a competitive market with competing options available, and we take pride in our work with elderly and vulnerable groups, as well as our work on the Customer Fairness agenda.”

Law firm Mishcon de Reya has filed a claim with the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) worth £600m. The claim could result in payments of £500 each for 2.3 million BT customers if it’s successful.

The case represents customers who purchased a BT landline contract, but did not also take BT broadband or pay TV packages.

Says Rocio Concha, Which? Director of Policy and Advocacy: 

“Which? has campaigned long and hard for an effective collective redress scheme, but with no claim under the new regime reaching a full trial, consumers have not yet had the results they need.

“If successful, this opt-out action would be welcomed by many BT customers who were found to have been historically overcharged for years, but saw no refund as a result.”

Chris Price
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