Vodafone, EE, Three and O2 face class action lawsuit worth over £3bn

The four largest network operators are accused of punishing loyal customers – meaning they paid more for the same services than new customers.

Many contracts provide for a gradual repayment of the cost of a smartphone over two or three years – but it is alleged that companies failed to reduce the monthly bill once the device was paid off.

The lawsuit was brought by former Citizens Advice manager Justin Gutmann and law firm Charles Lyndon and seeks at least £3.285 billion in damages.

If successful, affected consumers could receive up to £1,823 each, Mr Gutmann claimed.

The class action lawsuit was filed with the Competition Appeal Tribunal in London.

All eligible consumers will automatically be eligible for the claim at no charge unless they follow specific steps to opt-out.

The action follows a “super-complaint” made by Citizens Advice to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in September 2018, which led to the CMA finding: “We do not believe that providers are continuing to charge their customers the same rate “As soon as they have actually done so,” they should have paid off their cell phones at the end of the minimum contract period.

“This is unfair and must be stopped.”

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Mr Gutmann said: “I am bringing this class action because I believe these four mobile phone companies have systematically exploited millions of loyal customers across the UK through loyalty penalties, taking over £3 billion out of the pockets of hard-working people and their families.”

“These companies have continued to take advantage of their customers despite the 2008 financial crisis, the COVID-19 crisis and now the cost of living crisis. It’s time for them to be held accountable.”

An O2 spokesman said: “To date there has been no contact with our legal team regarding this claim. However, we are proud that a decade ago we were the first provider to introduce split contracts, which automatically and completely reduce customers’ bills as they occur.” Paid off her handset.

“We have long called for an end to ‘smartphone fraud’ and demand that other wireless carriers stop the harmful practice of charging customers for cell phones they already own.”

An EE spokeswoman said: “We strongly reject the speculative lawsuit against us. EE offers a range of tariffs and a robust process for dealing with contract end notifications.”

“The UK mobile market is a highly competitive market with some of the lowest prices in Europe.”

Vodafone said: “We have only just been notified of this and we do not yet have sufficient details for our legal team to assess.”

Source : news.sky.com

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