On 27th September, the Competition Appeal Tribunal issued a judgment approving a bid to launch a £600 million class action compensation claim against BT on behalf of over 2 million customers that it allegedly overcharged.
The landmark case, led by Justin Le Patourel, aims to recover hundreds of pounds for BT landline-only customers, many of whom are older and from low-income households.
On 19th October 2021 , the Tribunal rejected an application from BT for permission to appeal its judgment of the 27th September.
BT sought permission to appeal from the Court of Appeal (CoA). On 18th November 2021, the CoA decided to allow BT permission to bring an appeal in the CoA.
On September 27th 2021, the Competition Appeal Tribunal gave the green light for Justin Le Patourel to proceed with a claim against BT for alleged historic overcharging of landline customers by way of a class action.
At a hearing on 19th October 2021, BT requested permission to appeal the Tribunal’s judgment. The Tribunal rejected this request. BT therefore sought permission from the Court of Appeal to pursue an appeal.
Subsequently, on 18th November 2021, the Court of Appeal granted BT permission to try to appeal the CAT’s judgment.
Justin Le Patourel said: “I note that the Court has granted BT permission to attempt an appeal on the basis that issues of practice and procedure are important and could have implications for
other cases. However, I remain confident that our case – which is that BT overcharged landline customers, many of whom were elderly and vulnerable, over the course of several years – is very strong. I hope we can resolve this appeal and move to full trial as quickly as possible”.
In 2017, Ofcom investigated BT and discovered that it had been overcharging its landline customers. Although the costs of providing landlines had been falling since 2009, BT continued to put up its prices. BT agreed to reduce the future bills of some of these neglected customers, but it did not compensate any of them for past overcharging.
Determined to put this right, Justin Le Patourel, founder of CALL (Collective Action on Land Lines) launched Justin Le Patourel v BT Group Plc and British Telecommunications Plc in the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT).
Under the UK’s competition regime, a person wishing to bring a class action on behalf of customers (and/or businesses) must first secure approval from the CAT. Le Patourel’s application was heard by the Tribunal in a two-day hearing from 24 to 25 June 2021. The certification judgment was issued 27th September, where it was then decided that the claim against BT was to go ahead.
On September 27th, the Tribunal granted Le Patourel permission to bring the claim on behalf of the following BT customers:
- (i) “Voice Only Customers”, who had a BT landline service between October 2015 and April 2018, but did not also receive a broadband service (from BT or any other provider).
- (ii) “Split Purchase Customers”, who had a BT landline service alongside a broadband service (from BT or another provider) at any time since October 2015, but who did not ‘bundle’ these services together into a single, discounted package.
In its judgment, available here, the Tribunal notes “[Mr Le Patourel’s] application for a CPO succeeds [..]. This judgment is unanimous”.
If the case is successful, the 2.31 million BT customers who are believed to have been overcharged could receive up to £500 each in compensation – for many customers, this cost equates to the cost of their average winter fuel payment.