BT faces class action suit for allegedly overcharging millions of landline customers

Tech

A law firm has decided Ofcom didn’t go far enough three years ago when it got BT to lower its prices and thinks 2.3 million of its customers deserve compensation.

The claim is being brought by Mishcon de Reya, on behalf of lead claimant Justin Le Patourel, who even created a website to show how serious he is. It builds on a 2017 Ofcom finding that BT had been overcharging its landline customers, which was apparently resolved when BT belatedly lowered its prices. Le Patourel seems to have suddenly thought ‘hold on a minute, what about all that time before BT dropped its prices?’

“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 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.”

“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,” said Rob Murray, partner of Mishcon de Reya. “We hope very much that a settlement can be reached to resolve them in line with BTs acceptance of the need to avoid overcharging when investigated by Ofcom.”

“We strongly disagree with the claim being brought against us,” said a BT statement. “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.”

The press release for the suit made a vague reference to old and vulnerable people being more likely to have been ripped off, which clearly touched a nerve. They reckon they can get £500 for each customer, which would come to £1.15 billion, but the press release says it’s a £589 million suit, so something’s gone weird with the maths there. BT is heavily regulated and would only have charged as much as it could get away with. So surely, if anyone is to blame for overcharging, it’s Ofcom.

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