Phones 4u points a finger at networks for its collapse

Oliver Smith
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The phones retailer lost its last network partner, EE, last week, leading to its collapse
ACCUSATIONS flew yesterday bet­ween the owner of failed high street smartphone retailer Phones 4u and the mobile operators allegedly responsible for its collapse.

Phones 4u’s owner, BC Partners, argued that both EE and Vodafone had, until very recently, indicated they saw the retailer as a long term strategic partner.

Phones 4u, which employs 5,596 staff and runs 720 outlets, including 550 standalone stores, all of which remained closed yesterday, said the decision had come as a “complete shock”.

Stefano Quadrio Curzio, a representative of BC Partners, said: “Vodafone has acted in exactly the opposite way to what they had consistently indicated to the management of Phones 4u over more than six months.

“Their behaviour appears to have been designed to inflict the maximum damage to their partner of 15 years, giving Phones 4u no time to develop commercial alternatives.

Vodafone in turn rejected any accusations that it had acted inappropriately during its negotiations with Phones 4u.

“Phones 4u was offered repeated opportunities to propose competitive distribution terms to enable us to conclude a new agreement, but was un­able to do so on terms which were commercially viable for Vodafone in the current UK market conditions,” the mobile operator said.

Meanwhile, Vodafone reportedly considered a joint takeover of Phones 4u two months ago, according to Sky News, but a bid never materialised.

“For regulatory and commercial reasons the acquisition of Phones 4u was not an option. The UK management team took legal advice in the early summer to review its potential but it was quickly dismissed given the advice we received,” said Vodafone.

“The decision to terminate our contract with them was made independently by the UK management team on purely commercial reasons following extensive negotiations.”

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