Britain’s biggest mobile phone operators are facing a class action lawsuit that seeks damages of almost £3.3 billion ($4.1 billion) after lawyers on Friday alleged that customers had been overcharged.
Vodafone, EE, Three and O2 are accused of “loyalty penalties”, leaving existing customers paying more than new customers for the same services, stated law firm Charles Lyndon, which has brought the case along with an adviser on consumers’ legal rights, Justin Gutmann.
In reaction, the accused refuted the claim and said they were awaiting more detail.
The claim relates to contracts whereby a customer had bought a phone together with airtime services.
It alleges that the firms failed to reduce the overall amount charged once the minimum contractual term expired, despite the fact that consumers had fully paid for the phone.
The class action has been filed with the Competition Appeal Tribunal in London, with all qualifying consumers are automatically included in the claim for free unless they decide to opt out.
The big four operators allegedly overcharged on up to 28.2 million contracts, resulting in damages sought totalling £3.285 billion.
Gutmann said if successful, a consumer who bought a contract made up of a mobile phone and services such as data, minutes and calls with one of the mobile operators could receive as much as £1,823.
“I’m launching 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,” Gutmann said in a statement.
“These companies kept taking advantage of customers despite the financial crisis of 2008, Covid and now the cost-of-living crisis. It’s time they were held to account.”
Responding, EE said “we strongly disagree with the speculative claim being brought against us”.
Vodafone said it had yet to “have sufficient detail for our legal team to assess”.
An O2 spokesman added: “To date there has been no contact with our legal team on this claim. However, we are proud to have been the first provider to have launched split contracts a decade ago which automatically and fully reduce customers’ bills once they’ve paid off their handset.”
Three had yet to comment.
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