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Class action case against BT unlike any other seen by regulators, tribunal hears

A tribunal has heard that a class action claim seeking £1.3 billion in compensation for BT customers is ‘remarkable’ and ‘unlike any we’ve seen by regulators exercising their regulatory powers’ (BT Group/PA)
A tribunal has heard that a class action claim seeking £1.3 billion in compensation for BT customers is ‘remarkable’ and ‘unlike any we’ve seen by regulators exercising their regulatory powers’ (BT Group/PA)

A tribunal has heard that a class action claim seeking £1.3 billion in compensation for BT customers is “remarkable” and “unlike any we’ve seen by regulators exercising their regulatory powers”.

Collective Action on Land Lines (Call) founder Justin Le Patourel alleges that BT charged customers “excessive and unfair” prices for standalone landlines and calls in violation of its special responsibility as a dominant firm under section 18 of the Competition Act.

Daniel Beard KC, acting for BT, has said in documents that it was legitimate for companies to “seek to maximise their profits and that they price accordingly”.

He told the tribunal on Tuesday: “I’m going to deal with what is by any measure quite a remarkable claim. It’s a claim for excessive pricing unlike any that we’ve seen by regulators exercising their regulatory powers, let alone in any standalone determination.”

He said the claimant had to prove market dominance, that prices charged by BT were excessive in regards to costs, and that those prices were unfair.

He went on: “It has to do all of that having regard to principles of legal certainty, and those are important principles.

“What we’ve heard over the past day and a half does not remotely come close to discharging that burden of proof in relation to any of those three elements.”

BT has said the claim related to a technical landline pricing issue which was resolved by Ofcom in 2017.

It has said it does not accept that its pricing was anti-competitive then, and would “robustly defend” its position at trial.

Customers could be in line for between £300-400 depending on the length of their contract with BT if the claim is successful.

The trial is estimated to last eight weeks.